Tear fluid biomarkers in ocular and systemic disease: potential use for predictive, preventive and personalised medicine
Human tear fluid is a complex mixture containing high concentrations of proteins and is increasingly becoming an important source for studying protein biomarkers of eye-related diseases such as Graves' ophthalmopathy. Today, the Schirmer tear test is the most widely used technique for tear collection. However, sample handling and protein extraction from these strips have been highly challenging. Cutting and removal of the Schirmer strips after extraction, which may lead to sample loss prior to downstream analysis, are some of the challenges to consider. To address some of these limitations, we have developed a single-unit filter-aided method for both sample handling and protein extraction. In addition, we systematically investigated the most suitable conditions for protein extraction from these strips. Among the different extraction conditions applied, extraction with 100 mM ammonium bicarbonate containing 50 mM NaCl resulted in the highest number of identified proteins using one-dimensional liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Moreover, 1526 proteins were identified when the optimized extraction method was combined with two-dimensional LC-MS/MS analysis, demonstrating the applicability of this novel approach to the study of the tear proteome. This dataset of identified proteins represents a comprehensive catalogue of the tear proteome and may serve as a list for future biomarker research.