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Anal Chem. 2001 May 1;73(9):1927-34.

Isotope-tagged cross-linking reagents. A new tool in mass spectrometric protein interaction analysis.

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Functional Genomics, Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland.


In protein interaction analysis, one promising method to identify the involved proteins and to characterize interacting sites at the same time is the mass spectrometric analysis of enzymatic hydrolysates of covalently cross-linked complexes. While protein identification can be accomplished by the methodology developed for proteome analysis, the unequivocal detection and characterization of cross-linked sites remained involved without selection criteria for linked peptides in addition to mass. To provide such criteria, we incorporated cross-links with a distinct isotope pattern into the microtubule-destabilizing protein Op18/stathmin (Op18) and into complexes formed by Op18 with tubulin. The deuterium-labeled cross-linking reagents bis(sulfosuccinimidyl)-glutarate-d4, -pimelate-d4, and -sebacate-d4 were prepared together with their undeuterated counterparts and applied as a 1:1 mixture of the respective d0 and d4 isotopomers. The resulting d0/d4 isotope tags allowed a straightforward mass spectrometric detection of peptides carrying the linker even in complex enzymatic protein hydrolysates. In the structure elucidation of the linked peptides by MS/MS, the assignment of the linked amino acids was again greatly facilitated by the d0/d4 tag. By applying two cross-linkers with similar reactivity but different spacer length in parallel, even doublets with very low intensity could be assigned with high confidence in MS and MS/MS spectra. Since in the Op18-tubulin complexes only a limited number of peptides carried the linker, the identification of the involved proteins per se was not impeded, thus accomplishing both protein identification and characterization of interacting sites in the same experiment. This novel methodology allowed us to significantly refine the current view of the complex between Op18 and tubulin corroborating the tubulin "capping" activity of the N-terminal domain of Op18.

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