Evaluation of Variant-Specific Peptides for Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern

Kantaphon Suddhapas, M. Hannah Choi, Michael R. Shortreed, Aaron T. Timperman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant presented significant challenges to the global effort to counter the pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is predicted to remain prevalent for the foreseeable future, making the ability to identify SARS-CoV-2 variants imperative in understanding and controlling the pandemic. The predominant variant discovery method, genome sequencing, is time-consuming, insensitive, and expensive. Ultraperformance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS) offers an exciting alternative detection modality provided that variant-containing peptide markers are sufficiently detectable from their tandem mass spectra (MS/MS). We have synthesized model tryptic peptides of SARS-CoV-2 variants alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and omicron and evaluated their signal intensity, HCD spectra, and reverse phase retention time. Detection limits of 781, 781, 65, and 65 amol are obtained for the molecular ions of the proteotypic peptides, beta (QIAPGQTGNIADYNYK), gamma (TQLPSAYTNSFTR), delta (VGGNYNYR), and omicron (TLVKQLSSK), from neat solutions. These detection limits are on par with the detection limits of a previously reported proteotypic peptide from the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, HTPINLVR. This study demonstrates the potential to differentiate SARS-CoV-2 variants through their proteotypic peptides with an approach that is broadly applicable across a wide range of pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2443-2452
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 7 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Covid-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • SARS-CoV-2 variants
  • mass spectrometry
  • peptides
  • proteomics
  • variants of concern
  • viral proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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