Polymeric nanoassemblies for enrichment and detection of peptides and proteins in human breast milk

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Human breast milk is an understudied biological fluid that may be useful for early detection of breast cancer. Methods for enriching and detecting biomarkers in human breast milk, however, are not as well-developed as compared with other biological fluids. In this work, we demonstrate a new enrichment method based on polymeric nanoassemblies that is capable of enhancing the mass spectrometry–based detection of peptides and proteins in human breast milk. In this method, positively charged nanoassemblies are used to selectively deplete abundant proteins in milk based on electrostatic interactions, which simplifies the mixture and enhances detection of positively charged peptides and proteins. Negatively charged nanoassemblies are used in a subsequent enrichment step to further enhance the detection and quantification of trace-level peptides and proteins. Together the depletion and enrichment steps allow model biomarkers to be detected at low nM levels, which are close to instrumental limits of detection. This new method not only demonstrates the ability to detect proteins in human breast milk but also provides an alternative approach for targeted protein detection in complex biological matrices.

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Correspondence to S. Thayumanavan or Richard W. Vachet.

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Zhao, B., Gao, J., Serrano, M.A.C. et al. Polymeric nanoassemblies for enrichment and detection of peptides and proteins in human breast milk. Anal Bioanal Chem (2020).

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  • Breast milk
  • Nanomaterials
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Protein enrichment
  • Biomarkers