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J Mass Spectrom. 2004 Feb;39(2):208-15.

Improved detection of multi-phosphorylated peptides in the presence of phosphoric acid in liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry.

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Biological Sciences Division, MSIN K8-98, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, WA 99352, USA.


In contrast to lower phosphorylation states (e.g. the tryptic monophosphopeptide FQpSEEQQQTEDELQDK from bovine beta-casein), the specific detection of multi-phosphorylated peptides (e.g. the tetraphosphopeptide RELEELNVPGEIVEpSLpSpSpSEESITR from tryptic digestion of bovine beta-casein) has often been problematic for liquid chromatographic mass spectrometric (LC/MS) analysis owing to their high affinity for adsorption to exposed surfaces. We observed an enhancement in the overall detection of phosphopeptides on addition of phosphoric acid (0.1-1.0%) to the sample solution; a 10-fold increase in sensitivity was determined for the detection of two tryptic phosphopeptides and also a significant improvement in the detection of the tetraphosphopeptide. Using capillary LC with ion trap tandem MS for detection and identification, the achievable detection limits were 50 fmol and 50 pmol for the monophosphopeptide and the tetraphosphopeptide, respectively. Phosphoric acid is believed to act as a blocking agent to available silanol groups on both the silica capillary surface and the C(18)-bonded stationary phase silica surface.

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