Cashmere is regarded as a specialty and luxury fiber due to its scarcity and high economic value. For fiber quality assessment, it is technically very challenging to distinguish and quantify the cashmere fiber from yak or wool fibers because of their highly similar physical appearance and substantial protein sequence homology. To address this issue, we propose a workflow combining untargeted and targeted proteomics strategies for selecting, verifying and quantifying biomarkers for cashmere textile authentication. Untargeted proteomic surveys were first applied to identify 174, 157, and 156 proteins from cashmere, wool and yak fibers, respectively. After marker selection at different levels, peptides turned out to afford much higher selectivity than proteins for fiber species discrimination. Subsequently, parallel reaction monitoring (PRM) methods were developed for ten selected peptide markers. The PRM-based targeted analysis of peptide markers enabled accurate determination of fiber species and cashmere percentages in different fiber mixtures. Furthermore, collective use of these peptide makers allowed us to discriminate and quantify cashmere fibers in commercial finished fabrics that have undergone heavy chemical treatments. Cashmere proportion measurement in fabric samples using our proteomic approach was in good agreement with results from traditional light microscopy, yet our method can be more readily standardized to become an objective and robust assay for assessing authenticity of fibers and textiles. We anticipate that the proteomic strategies presented in our study could be further implicated in discovery of quality trait markers for other products containing highly homologous proteomes.
Li, S., Zhang, Y., Wang, J., Yang, Y., Miao, C., Guo, Y., … Shui, W. (2016). Combining untargeted and targeted proteomic strategies for discrimination and quantification of cashmere fibers. PLoS ONE, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147044