Label-Free but Still Constrained: Assessment of Global Proteomic Strategies for the Quantification of Hepatic Enzymes and Transporters

Jill Barber, Zubida M. Al-Majdoub, Narciso Couto, Areti-Maria Vasilogianni, Annika Tillmann, Sarah Alrubia, Amin Rostami-Hodjegan, Brahim Achour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building and refining pharmacology models require "system" data derived from tissues and in vitro systems analyzed by quantitative proteomics. Label-free global proteomics offers a wide scope of analysis, allowing simultaneous quantification of thousands of proteins per sample. The data generated from such analysis offer comprehensive protein expression profiles that can address existing gaps in models. In this study, we assessed the performance of three widely used label-free proteomic methods, "high N" ion intensity approach (HiN), intensity-based absolute quantification (iBAQ) and total protein approach (TPA), in relation to the quantification of enzymes and transporters in 27 human liver microsomal samples. Global correlations between the three methods were highly significant (R2 > 0.70, P < 0.001, n = 2232 proteins). Absolute abundances of 57 pharmacokinetic targets measured by standard-based label-free methods (HiN and iBAQ) showed good agreement, whereas the TPA overestimated abundances by two- to threefold. Relative abundance distribution of enzymes was similar for the three methods, while differences were observed with TPA in the case of transporters. Variability (CV) was similar across methods, with consistent between-sample relative quantification. The back-calculated amount of protein in the samples based on each method was compared with the nominal protein amount analyzed in the proteomic workflow, revealing overall agreement with data from the HiN method with bovine serum albumin as standard. The findings herein present a critique of label-free proteomic data relevant to pharmacokinetics and evaluate the possibility of retrospective analysis of historic datasets. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: This study provides useful insights for using label-free methods to generate abundance data applicable for populating pharmacokinetic models. The data demonstrated overall correlation between intensity-based label-free proteomic methods (HiN, iBAQ and TPA), whereas iBAQ and TPA overestimated the total amount of protein in the samples. The extent of overestimation can provide a means of normalization to support absolute quantification. Importantly, between-sample relative quantification was consistent (similar variability) across methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)762-769
Number of pages8
JournalDrug Metabolism and Disposition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022


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