To address the challenges associated with differential expression proteomics, label-free mass spectrometric protein quantification methods have been developed as alternatives to array-based, gel-based, and stable isotope tag or label-based approaches. In this paper, we focus on the issues associated with label-free methods that rely on quantitation based on peptide ion peak area measurement. These issues include chromatographic alignment, peptide qualification for quantitation, and normalization. In addressing these issues, we present various approaches, assembled in a recently developed label-free quantitative mass spectrometry platform, that overcome these difficulties and enable comprehensive, accurate, and reproducible protein quantitation in highly complex protein mixtures from experiments with many sample groups. As examples of the utility of this approach, we present a variety of cases where the platform was applied successfully to assess differential protein expression or abundance in body fluids, in vitro nanotoxicology models, tissue proteomics in genetic knock-in mice, and cell membrane proteomics.
The article is published online in the International Journal of Proteomics and is free to access.