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J Mass Spectrom. 2002 Jul;37(7):663-75.

'Top down' protein characterization via tandem mass spectrometry.

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Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-1393, USA.


Technological and scientific advances over the past decade have enabled protein identification and characterization strategies to be developed that are based on subjecting intact protein ions and large protein fragments directly to tandem mass spectrometry. These approaches are referred to collectively as 'top down' to contrast them with 'bottom up' approaches whereby protein identification is based on mass spectrometric analysis of peptides derived from proteolytic digestion, usually with trypsin. A key step in enabling top down approaches has been the ability to assign tandem mass spectrometer product ion identities, which can be done either via high resolving power or through product ion charge state manipulation. The ability to determine product ion charge states has permitted studies of the reactions, including dissociation, ion-molecule reactions, ion-electron reactions and ion-ion reactions of high-mass, multiply charged protein ions. Electrospray ionization combined with high magnetic field strength Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance has proven to be particularly powerful for detailed protein characterization owing to its high mass resolution and mass accuracy and its ability to effect electron capture-induced dissociation. Other types of tandem mass spectrometers are also beginning to find increasing use in top down protein identification/characterization studies. Charge state manipulation via ion-ion reactions in electrodynamic ion traps, for example, enables top down strategies to be considered using instruments with relatively modest mass resolution capabilities. Precursor ion charge state manipulation techniques have also recently been demonstrated to be capable of concentrating and charge-state purifying proteins in the gas phase. Advances in technologies applied to the structural analysis of whole protein ions and in understanding their reactions, such as those described here, are providing new options for the study of complex protein mixtures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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