Reverse-micelle forming amphiphilic homopolymers with carboxylic acid and quaternary amine substituents are used to selectively enrich biomarkerpeptides and protein fragments from human serum prior to matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) analysis. After depletion of human serum albumin (HSA) and immunoglobulin G (IgG), low abundance peptidebiomarkers can be selectively enriched and detected by MALDI-MS at clinically relevant concentrations by using the appropriate homopolymer(s) and extraction pH value(s). Three breast cancer peptidebiomarkers, bradykinin, C4a, and ITIH4, were chosen to test this new approach, and detection limits of 0.5 ng mL−1, 0.08 ng mL−1, and 0.2 ng mL−1, respectively, were obtained. In addition, the amphiphilic homopolymers were used to detect prostate specific antigen (PSA) at concentrations as low as 0.5 ng mL−1 by targeting a surrogate peptide fragment of this proteinbiomarker. Selective enrichment and sensitive MS detection of low abundance peptide/proteinbiomarkers by these polymeric reverse micelles should be a sensitive and straightforward approach for biomarker screening in human serum.
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