Sequential window acquisition of all theoretical mass spectra (SWATH) analysis for characterization and quantification of histone post-translational modifications

Simone Sidoli, Shu Lin, Lei Xiong, Natarajan V. Bhanu, Kelly R. Karch, Eric Johansen, Christie Hunter, Sahana Mollah, Benjamin A. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Scopus citations


Histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) have a fundamental function in chromatin biology, as they model chromatin structure and recruit enzymes involved in gene regulation, DNA repair, and chromosome condensation. High throughput characterization of histone PTMs is mostly performed by using nano-liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. However, limitations in speed and stochastic sampling of data dependent acquisition methods in MS lead to incomplete discrimination of isobaric peptides and loss of low abundant species. In this work, we analyzed histone PTMs with a data-independent acquisition method, namely SWATH™ analysis. This approach allows for MS/MS-based quantification of all analytes without upfront assay development and no issues of biased and incomplete sampling. We purified histone proteins from human embryonic stem cells and mouse trophoblast stem cells before and after differentiation, and prepared them for MS analysis using the propionic anhydride protocol. Results on histone H3 peptides verified that sequential window acquisition of all theoretical mass spectra could accurately quantify peptides (<9% average coefficient of variation, CV) over four orders of magnitude, and we could discriminate isobaric and co-eluting peptides (e.g. H3K18ac and H3K23ac) using MS/MS-based quantification. This method provided high sensitivity and precision, supported by the fact that we could find significant differences for remarkably low abundance PTMs such as H3K9me2S10ph (relative abundance <0.02%). We performed relative quantification for few sample peptides using different fragment ions and observed high consistency (CV <15%) between the fragments. This indicated that different fragment ions can be used independently to achieve the same peptide relative quantification. Taken together, sequential window acquisition of all theoretical mass spectra proved to be an easy-to-use MS acquisition method to perform high quality MS/MS-based quantification of histone-modified peptides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2420-2428
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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