Numerous experimental strategies exist for relative protein quantification, one of the primary objectives of mass spectrometry based proteomics analysis. These strategies mostly involve the incorporation of a stable isotope label via either metabolic incorporation in cell or tissue culture (15N/ 14N metabolic labeling, stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC)), chemical derivatization (ICAT, iTRAQ, TMT), or enzymatically catalyzed incorporation (18O labeling). Also, these techniques can be cost or time prohibitive or not amenable to the biological system of interest (i.e., metabolic labeling of clinical samples, most animals, or fungi). This is the case with the quantification of fungal proteomes, which often require auxotroph mutants to fully metabolically label. Alternatively, label-free strategies for protein quantification such as using integrated ion abundance and spectral counting have been demonstrated for quantification affording over 2 orders of magnitude of dynamic range which is comparable to metabolic labeling strategies. Direct comparisons of these quantitative techniques are largely lacking in the literature but are highly warranted in order to evaluate the capabilities, limitations, and analytical variability of available quantitative strategies. Here, we present the direct comparison of SILAC to label-free quantification by spectral counting of an identical set of data from the bottom-up proteomic analysis of human embryonic stem cells, which are readily able to be quantified using both strategies, finding that both strategies result in a similar number of protein identifications. We also discuss necessary constraints for accurate quantification using spectral counting and assess the potential of this label-free strategy as a viable alternative for quantitative proteomics. © 2010 American Chemical Society.