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Anal Chem. 2010 May 15;82(10):4006-14. doi: 10.1021/ac902786q.

Site-selective fragmentation of peptides and proteins at quinone-modified cysteine residues investigated by ESI-MS.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


Described herein are several unique analytical applications utilizing mass spectrometry and the selective modification of the free thiol form of cysteine in both peptides and proteins by various quinones. This simple modification can be used to quantify the number of free or disulfide bound cysteines in a protein. In addition, quinone modification can also be used to easily probe the solvent accessibility of cysteine residues, which provides information about protein structure or folding state. Furthermore, the chromophoric properties of the quinone moiety can be leveraged for site specific photodissociation of the backbone. The photodissociation reveals both the presence and location of modified cysteine residues. For example, cleavage of the protein backbone of alpha-hemoglobin is observed selectively at a single cysteine out of 140 residues in the whole protein. This selective backbone fragmentation is accompanied by a parent ion mass loss, which is unique to the modifying quinone. When combined, this information can be used to determine both the presence and site of modification generated by naturally occurring molecules, such as dopamine, which can harness quinone chemistry to modify proteins.

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