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J Proteome Res. 2004 Nov-Dec;3(6):1155-63.

Two-dimensional mass spectra generated from the analysis of 15N-labeled and unlabeled peptides for efficient protein identification and de novo peptide sequencing.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G2.


Protein identification has been greatly facilitated by database searches against protein sequences derived from product ion spectra of peptides. This approach is primarily based on the use of fragment ion mass information contained in a MS/MS spectrum. Unambiguous protein identification from a spectrum with low sequence coverage or poor spectral quality can be a major challenge. We present a two-dimensional (2D) mass spectrometric method in which the numbers of nitrogen atoms in the molecular ion and the fragment ions are used to provide additional discriminating power for much improved protein identification and de novo peptide sequencing. The nitrogen number is determined by analyzing the mass difference of corresponding peak pairs in overlaid spectra of (15)N-labeled and unlabeled peptides. These peptides are produced by enzymatic or chemical cleavage of proteins from cells grown in (15)N-enriched and normal media, respectively. It is demonstrated that, using 2D information, i.e., m/z and its associated nitrogen number, this method can, not only confirm protein identification results generated by MS/MS database searching, but also identify peptides that are not possible to identify by database searching alone. Examples are presented of analyzing Escherichia coli K12 extracts that yielded relatively poor MS/MS spectra, presumably from the digests of low abundance proteins, which can still give positive protein identification using this method. Additionally, this 2D MS method can facilitate spectral interpretation for de novo peptide sequencing and identification of posttranslational or other chemical modifications. We envision that this method should be particularly useful for proteome expression profiling of organelles or cells that can be grown in (15)N-enriched media.

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