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Christie Hunter on Targeted Proteomics
Industry Insight

Christie Hunter on Targeted Proteomics

Christie Hunter on Targeted Proteomics
Industry Insight

Christie Hunter on Targeted Proteomics

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Dr. Christie Hunter, director of proteomics applications at AB SCIEX, received the 2013 Science and Technology Award at the recent HUPO 2013 conference in Japan for her contributions to the development and commercialization of a breakthrough approach for targeted proteomics.

With targeted proteomics recently named 'Method of the Year' by Nature Methods, we used the opportunity to speak with Christie to learn more about this area and how AB SCIEX systems have facilitated the research. 

AB: Can you tell me a little about targeted proteomics?
CHRISTIE HUNTER (CH): In targeted experiments, you are asking a very specific question and designing your whole experiment in such a way to get an answer to this specific question. In the case of targeted MS experiments, the advantages of doing this using the Multiple Reaction Monitoring workflow on the QTRAP systems are many. Here we can focus on quantifying a subset of proteins of interest and quantify them with high accuracy, and do this reproducibly across many samples. Also, for large studies, the data analysis and informatics are nicely simplified for productivity.

AB: How has targeted proteomics changed the field of proteomics?
CH:  Because of the sensitivity and specificity of this technique, we can run much faster methods to continue to drive up the throughput of our analysis.  We are already seeing many more studies being performed with larger and larger numbers of samples, giving us more highly powered studies to get a better understanding of the biology we are studying.

AB: How does the AB SCIEX QTRAP® System facilitate targeted proteomics research?
CH: The QTRAP system came onto the market at a time when the field of proteomics was dominated by qualitative workflows, but starting to understand that quantitative workflows were going to be key to success in the field. Because the instrument was a hybrid instrument (triple quadrupole linear ion trap), it was able to do both quantitative workflows with multiple reaction monitoring and also provide the ion trap capabilities for qualitative analysis. It allowed us to push the technology into the proteomics labs and provide unique workflows that were highly enabling. The next wave of targeted proteomics will be using SWATH Acquisition, a data independent acquisition strategy, to perform targeted quantitation on much larger numbers of proteins in our biological studies. 

AB: What would you say was the key impact of your 2006 publication, Quantitative Mass Spectrometric MRM Assays for Major Plasma Proteins?
CH: There were a number of papers showing that small numbers of peptides could be quantified using MRM technology.  Also, the triple quadrupole instrument was already the industry standard for performing targeted quantitation in the pharmaceutical industry. I think what was most compelling and impactful about the paper was that we showed you could quantify a much higher number of peptides in a biological matrix that was of high interest. And we evaluated a number of the key questions that were top of mind in the community and showed that the technique really was a viable option to improve how we were approaching protein peptide quantitation.

AB: What does the future hold for targeted proteomics?
CH:  We have made a lot of progress over the last 10 years in this area of targeted proteomics. The instrumentation has improved significantly, and our software and reagent workflows have evolved greatly.  Next steps will be to continue to drive towards higher and higher throughput, such that we can measure large sample numbers in our studies to better validate some of the interesting proteins that discovery proteomics has uncovered. This will involve both sample preparation improvements and LCMS innovations.

Christie Hunter was speaking to Ashley Board, Managing Editor for Technology Networks. You can find Ashley on  and follow Technology Networks on Twitter.