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Optimization of iTRAQ labelling coupled to OFFGEL fractionation as a proteomic workflow to the analysis of microsomal proteins of Medicago truncatula roots

Cosette Abdallah13, Kjell Sergeant1, Christelle Guillier2, Eliane Dumas-Gaudot3, Céline C Leclercq1 and Jenny Renaut1*

Author Affiliations

1 Environmental and Agro-Biotechnologies Department, Centre de Recherche Public-Gabriel Lippmann, 41, rue du Brill, Belvaux, L-4422, Luxembourg

2 UMR 1347 Agroécologie, CNRS, ERL CNRS 6300, BP 86510, Dijon, 21000, France

3 UMR 1347 Agroécologie, INRA, BP 86510, Dijon, 21000, France

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Proteome Science 2012, 10:37  doi:10.1186/1477-5956-10-37

Published: 6 June 2012



Shotgun proteomics represents an attractive technical framework for the study of membrane proteins that are generally difficult to resolve using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. The use of iTRAQ, a set of amine-specific isobaric tags, is currently the labelling method of choice allowing multiplexing of up to eight samples and the relative quantification of multiple peptides for each protein. Recently the hyphenation of different separation techniques with mass spectrometry was used in the analysis of iTRAQ labelled samples. OFFGEL electrophoresis has proved its effectiveness in isoelectric point-based peptide and protein separation in solution. Here we describe the first application of iTRAQ-OFFGEL-LC-MS/MS on microsomal proteins from plant material. The investigation of the iTRAQ labelling effect on peptide electrofocusing in OFFGEL fractionator was carried out on Medicago truncatula membrane protein digests.


In-filter protein digestion, with easy recovery of a peptide fraction compatible with iTRAQ labelling, was successfully used in this study. The focusing quality in OFFGEL electrophoresis was maintained for iTRAQ labelled peptides with a higher than expected number of identified peptides in basic OFFGEL-fractions. We furthermore observed, by comparing the isoelectric point (pI) fractionation of unlabelled versus labelled samples, a non-negligible pI shifts mainly to higher values.


The present work describes a feasible and novel protocol for in-solution protein digestion in which the filter unit permits protein retention and buffer removal. The data demonstrates an impact of iTRAQ labelling on peptide electrofocusing behaviour in OFFGEL fractionation compared to their native counterpart by the induction of a substantial, generally basic pI shift. Explanations for the occasionally observed acidic shifts are likewise presented.

Sample preparation; Membrane proteomics; Gel-free proteomics; OFFGEL peptide fractionation; iTRAQ labelling; Medicago truncatula