AbstractConventional proteomics measures the averaged signal from mixed cell populations or bulk tissues, leading to the dilution of significant changes in subpopulations of cells that might serve as important biomarkers. Recent developments in bottom-up proteomics have enabled spatial mapping of cellular heterogeneity in tissue microenvironments. However, bottom-up proteomics cannot precisely infer the abundance changes of intact proteins, which are presented as proteoforms. Herein, we described a spatially resolved top-down proteomics (TDP) platform for proteoform identification and quantification directly on thin tissue sections. The spatial TDP platform consisted of a nanoPOTS (nanodroplet Processing in One pot for Trace Samples)-based sample preparation system and an LCM (laser capture microdissection)-based cell isolation system. We improved the nanoPOTS sample preparation by adding benzonase in the extraction buffer to enhance the coverage of nucleus proteins. Using ~200 cultured cells as model samples, the improved approach increased proteoform identifications from 493 to 700; newly identified proteoforms primarily corresponded to nuclear proteins. To demonstrate the spatial TDP platform in tissue samples, we analyzed LCM-isolated tissue voxels from rat brain cortex and hypothalamus regions. We quantified 426 proteoforms by combining identifications from TopPIC and TDPortal with the quantitation from ProMex. Several proteoforms corresponding to the same gene exhibited mixed abundance profiles between two tissue regions, suggesting potential PTM-specific spatial distributions. The spatial TDP workflow has prospects for biomarker discovery at proteoform level from small tissue sections.
Published: April 1, 2023