Comprehensive comparison of iTRAQ and label-free LC-based quantitative proteomics approaches using two chlamydomonas reinhardtii strains of interest for biofuels engineering

Hongxia Wang, Sophie Alvarez, Leslie M. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Comprehensive comparisons of quantitative proteomics techniques are rare in the literature, yet they are crucially important for optimal selection of approaches and methodologies that are ideal for a given proteomics initiative. In this study, two LC-based quantitative proteomics approaches-iTRAQ and label-free-were implemented using the LTQ-Orbitrap Velos platform. For this comparison, the model used was the total protein content from two Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strains in the context of alternative biofuels production. The strain comparison includes sta6 (a starch-less mutant of cw15) that produces twice as many lipid bodies (LB) containing triacylglycerols (TAGs) as its parental strain cw15 (a cell wall-deficient C. reinhardtii strain) under nitrogen starvation. Internal standard addition was used to rigorously assess the quantitation accuracy and precision of each method. Results from iTRAQ-4plex labeling using HCD (higher energy collision-induced dissociation) fragmentation were compared to those obtained using a label-free approach based on the peak area of intact peptides and collision-induced dissociation. The accuracy and precision, number of identified/quantified proteins and statistically significant protein differences detected, as well as efficiency of these two quantitative proteomics methods were evaluated and compared. Four technical and three biological replicates of each strain were performed to assess both the technical and biological variation of both approaches. A total of 896 and 639 proteins were identified with high confidence, and 329 and 124 proteins were quantified significantly with label-free and iTRAQ, respectively, using biological replicates. The results showed that both iTRAQ labeling and label-free methods provide high quality quantitative and qualitative data using nano-LC coupled with the LTQ-Orbitrap Velos mass spectrometer, but the selection of the optimal approach is dependent on experimental design and the biological question to be addressed. The functional categorization of the differential proteins between cw15 and sta6 reveals already known but also new mechanisms likely responsible for the production of lipids in sta6 and sets the baseline for future studies aimed at engineering these strains for high oil production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-501
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of proteome research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chlamydomonas
  • LTQ-Orbitrap Velos
  • label-free
  • quantitative proteomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry


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