Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Scientific Reports




9276 (12 pages)


Assigning links between microbial activity and biogeochemical cycles in the ocean is a primary objective for ecologists and oceanographers. Bacteria represent a small ecosystem component by mass, but act as the nexus for both nutrient transformation and organic matter recycling. There are limited methods to explore the full suite of active bacterial proteins largely responsible for degradation. Mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics now has the potential to document bacterial physiology within these complex systems. Global proteome profiling using MS, known as data dependent acquisition (DDA), is limited by the stochastic nature of ion selection, decreasing the detection of low abundance peptides. The suitability of MS-based proteomics methods in revealing bacterial signatures outnumbered by phytoplankton proteins was explored using a dilution series of pure bacteria (Ruegeria pomeroyi) and diatoms (Thalassiosira pseudonana). Two common acquisition strategies were utilized: DDA and selected reaction monitoring (SRM). SRM improved detection of bacterial peptides at low bacterial cellular abundance that were undetectable with DDA from a wide range of physiological processes (e.g. amino acid synthesis, lipid metabolism, and transport). We demonstrate the benefits and drawbacks of two different proteomic approaches for investigating species-specific physiological processes across relative abundances of bacteria that vary by orders of magnitude.


Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. © The Author(s) 2018

Original Publication Citation

Timmins-Schiffman, E., Mikan, M. P., Ying, S. T., Harvey, H. R., & Nunn, B. L. (2018). MS analysis of a dilution series of bacteria: Phytoplankton to improve detection of low abundance bacterial peptides. Scientific Reports, 8, 9276. doi:


0000-0001-7746-7758 (Harvey)