March of the acronyms.. ALACATs (a la carte proteomics)

James Johnson, Victoria M Harman, Catarina Franco, Edward Emmott, Nichola Rockliffe, Yaqi Sun, Lu-Ning Liu, Ayako Takemori, Nobuaki Takemori, Robert J Beynon (2021) Construction of à la carte QconCAT protein standards for multiplexed quantification of user-specified target proteins (2021) BMC Biol 2021 Sep 8;19(1):195. doi: 10.1186/s12915-021-01135-9.

Background: QconCATs are quantitative concatamers for proteomic applications that yield stoichiometric quantities of sets of stable isotope-labelled internal standards. However, changing a QconCAT design, for example, to replace poorly performing peptide standards has been a protracted process.

Results: We report a new approach to the assembly and construction of QconCATs, based on synthetic biology precepts of biobricks, making use of loop assembly to construct larger entities from individual biobricks. The basic building block (a Qbrick) is a segment of DNA that encodes two or more quantification peptides for a single protein, readily held in a repository as a library resource. These Qbricks are then assembled in a one tube ligation reaction that enforces the order of assembly, to yield short QconCATs that are useable for small quantification products. However, the DNA context of the short construct also allows a second cycle of loop assembly such that five different short QconCATs can be assembled into a longer QconCAT in a second, single tube ligation. From a library of Qbricks, a bespoke QconCAT can be assembled quickly and efficiently in a form suitable for expression and labelling in vivo or in vitro.

Conclusions: We refer to this approach as the ALACAT strategy as it permits à la carte design of quantification standards. ALACAT methodology is a major gain in flexibility of QconCAT implementation as it supports rapid editing and improvement of QconCATs and permits, for example, substitution of one peptide by another.

Keywords: Absolute quantification; Loop assembly; QconCAT; Quantitative proteomics; Stable isotopes; Standards; Synthetic biology.