Discovery and definition of non-canonical phosphorylation

Gemma Hardman , Simon Perkins , Philip Brownridge, Christopher J. Clarke , Dominic P. Byrne, Amy E. Campbell , Anton Kalyuzhnyy , Ashleigh Myall , Patrick A. Eyers , Andrew R. Jones and Claire E. Eyers (2019) Strong anion exchange-mediated phosphoproteomics reveals extensive human non-canonical phosphorylation [PUBMED] [PDF]

Phosphorylation is a key regulator of protein function under (patho)physiological conditions, and defining site-specific phosphorylation is essential to understand basic and disease biology. In vertebrates, the investigative focus has primarily been on serine, threonine and tyrosine phosphorylation, but mounting evidence suggests that phosphorylation of other ‘non-canonical’ amino acids also regulates critical aspects of cell biology. However, standard methods of phosphoprotein characterisation are largely unsuitable for the analysis of non-canonical phosphorylation due to their relative instability under acidic conditions and/or elevated temperature. Consequently, the complex landscape of phosphorylation remains unexplored.

Here, we report an Unbiased Phosphopeptide enrichment strategy based on Strong Anion Exchange (SAX) chromatography (UPAX), which permits identification of histidine (His), arginine (Arg), lysine (Lys), aspartate (Asp), glutamate (Glu) and cysteine (Cys) phosphorylation sites on human proteins by mass spectrometry-based phosphoproteomics.

Remarkably, under basal conditions, and having accounted for false site localisation probabilities, the number of unique non-canonical phosphosites is approximately one third of the number of observed canonical phosphosites. Our resource reveals the previously unappreciated diversity of protein phosphorylation in human cells, and opens up avenues for high throughput exploration of non-canonical phosphorylation in all organisms.