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Anal Chem. 2006 Jul 15;78(14):5102-8.

Use of nitrocellulose membranes for protein characterization by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry.

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Department of Pharmacology, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York 10016, USA.


We present an improved method for MALDI-MS analysis of proteins that have been electroblotted onto a nitrocellulose (NC) membrane. With this approach, electroblotted proteins can be analyzed directly for intact molecular weight determination or after on-membrane digestion by dissolution of the nitrocellulose in MALDI matrix solution containing 70% acetonitrile and 30% methanol. This solution helps maintain solubility of proteins and peptides while dissolving the NC membrane, which is dissolved by 100% acetone in other protocols. On-membrane tryptic digestion using this method requires half the time of in-gel digestion and results in fewer missed cleavages and better protein coverage. For the membrane proteins studied, bovine uroplakins II and III, the protein coverage was almost twice that provided by conventional in-gel digestion, and the transmembrane domains of both uroplakins were detected only after on-membrane digestion. We also demonstrated the compatibility with MALDI-MS of a new dye, MemCode, which is specifically designed for staining NC membrane-immobilized proteins and is faster and more sensitive than Ponceau-S. Our improved on-membrane digestion protocol greatly improves the study of soluble and, particularly strikingly, integral membrane proteins by mass spectrometry.

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