Indexed on: 06 Jul '18Published on: 06 Jul '18Published in: Bioconjugate Chemistry
Fluorescence-based electrophoresis has been widely used for proteome analysis, in which every protein species in cells are labeled with a fluorescent dye, separated by electric migration and are quantified using fluorescence detection. The ultimate limit of sensitivity for this approach could be reached by single-molecule fluorescence imaging and counting individual proteins, requiring exhaustive fluorescent labeling of proteins across molecular populations and species. However, it remains unclear how homogeneous is the fluorescence labeling of individual protein molecules of each species across the proteome. To address this question, we developed a method to measure the labeling homogeneity based on a single-molecule fluorescence counting assay. Our results reveal that the proportion of proteins labeled with at least one dye, called labeling occupancy (LO), was 35% for BSA fluorescently labeled using existing protocols. We then found that the LO could be improved to 82% under high pH and surfactant-rich conditions. Furthermore, when a proteome sample from a human cell lysate was analyzed, the total LO was 71%, whereby the values varied between 50 and 90% for low and high molecular weight proteome fractions, respectively. The results support the possibility of sensitive detection of proteins using single-molecule counting with fluorescent labeling at the proteome scale.