Blood serum or plasma proteome is a gold mine of disease biomarkers. However, complexity and a huge dynamic range of their components, combined with multiple mechanisms of degradation and posttranslational modifications, further complicated by the presence of lipids, salts, and other metabolites, represent a real challenge for analytical sensitivity, resolution, and reproducibility. This problem exists particularly in the case of potential disease-specific markers, most typically represented by low-abundant proteins (LAPs), whose detection is usually impaired by the dominance of albumins, immunoglobulins, and other high-abundant serum/plasma proteins (HAPs). Hence, analysis of biomarker candidates in serum/plasma samples frequently requires separation of their components, usually including depletion of albumin in a fraction of interest. Such “preprocessing” of serum/plasma specimens is critical in proteomic analysis based on mass spectrometry. This approach is very potent; nevertheless a wide range of protein concentrations in serum/plasma represents a particular challenge, since high-abundant proteins (mostly albumin) dominate in a sample subjected to mass spectrometry and suppress peptide ions originating from low-abundant proteins, thus limiting probability and reliability of their detection. An emerging approach in serum-/plasma-based biomarker-oriented studies is the proteome component of exosomes – nanovesicles secreted by cells and involved in multiple aspects of intercellular communication. However, the presence of albumin, frequent contaminant of exosomes isolated from human serum/plasma, represents a real challenge also in this type of study. A similar problem is encountered in proteomic studies based on exosomes obtained in in vitro experiments where culture media are normally supplemented with fetal bovine serum containing growth factors and hormones. In this case exosomes are frequently contaminated with bovine serum albumin and other bovine serum proteins which should be removed before proteomic analysis of exosome cargo.
Pietrowska, Monika, Agata Wlosowicz, Marta Gawin, and Piotr Widlak. "MS-Based Proteomic Analysis of Serum and Plasma: Problem of High Abundant Components and Lights and Shadows of Albumin Removal." In Emerging Sample Treatments in Proteomics, pp. 57-76. Springer, Cham, 2019.