Capillary zone electrophoresis-multiple/single reaction monitoring (CZE-MRM/SRM), which employed an electrokinetically driven sheath-flow electrospray interface, was used for the rapid and highly sensitive detection of protein analytes in complex tryptic digests. MRM channels were developed against a commercial exponential mixture of bovine proteins. Five proteins spanning four orders of magnitude concentration range were confidently detected from only 2.5 ng of the digest mixture; the mass detection limits (S/N = 3) of two detected proteins, alpha-casein and glutamate dehydrogenase were about 600 zmol and 30 amol, respectively. This technique was then applied to a RAW 264.7 cell lysate digest. Three proteins were confidently and reproducibly detected from 100 pg of this digest. The sample amount corresponds to the approximate protein content from a single cell, which suggests that CZE-MRM may be a useful analytical tool in chemical cytometry. In addition to providing highly sensitive detection of proteins in complex mixtures, this system is highly rapid; migration time of the protein digests was less than 10 min.
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