Peptide level turnover measurements enable the study of proteoform dynamics

The coordination of protein synthesis and degradation regulating protein abundance is a fundamental process in cellular homeostasis. Today, mass spectrometry-based technologies allow determination of endogenous protein turnover on a proteome-wide scale.

Standard dynamic SILAC (Stable Isotope Labeling in Cell Culture) approaches can suffer from missing data across pulse time-points limiting the accuracy of such analysis. This issue is of particular relevance when studying protein stability at the level of proteoforms because often only single peptides distinguish between different protein products of the same gene. To address this shortcoming, we evaluated the merits of combining dynamic SILAC and tandem mass tag (TMT)-labeling of ten pulse time-points in a single experiment. While the comparison to the standard dynamic SILAC method showed a high concordance of protein turnover rates, the pulsed SILAC-TMT approach yielded more comprehensive data (6,000 proteins on average) without missing values. Replicate analysis further established that the same reproducibility of turnover rate determination can be obtained for peptides and proteins facilitating proteoform resolved investigation of protein stability. We provide several examples of differentially turned over splice variants and show that post-translational modifications can affect cellular protein half-lives. For example, N-terminally processed peptides exhibited both faster and slower turnover behavior compared to other peptides of the same protein. In addition, the suspected proteolytic processing of the fusion protein FAU was substantiated by measuring vastly different stabilities of the cleavage products. Furthermore, differential peptide turnover suggested a previously unknown mechanism of activity regulation by post-translational destabilization of cathepsin D as well as the DNA helicase BLM. Finally, our comprehensive dataset facilitated a detailed evaluation of the impact of protein properties and functions on protein stability in steady-state cells and uncovered that the high turnover of respiratory chain complex I proteins might be explained by oxidative stress.

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