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J Proteome Res. 2007 Mar;6(3):937-46. Epub 2007 Jan 27.

Evaluation and optimization of ZIC-HILIC-RP as an alternative MudPIT strategy.

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Department of Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences and Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research, Utrecht University, Sorbonnelaan 16, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In proteomics, a digested cell lysate is often too complex for direct comprehensive mass spectrometric analysis. To reduce complexity, several peptide separation techniques have been introduced including very successful two-dimensional liquid chromatography (2D-LC) approaches. Here, we assess the potential of zwitterionic Hydrophilic Interaction Liquid Chromatography (ZIC-HILIC) as a first dimension for the analysis of complex peptide mixtures. We show that ZIC-HILIC separation is dramatically dependent on buffer pH in the range from 3 to 8, due to deprotonation of acidic amino acids. ZIC-HILIC exhibits a mixed-mode effect consisting of electrostatic and polar interactions. We developed a 2D-LC system that hyphenates ZIC-HILIC off-line with reversed-phase (RP). The two dimensions are fairly orthogonal, and the system performs very well in the analysis of minute amounts of complex peptide mixtures. Applying this method to the analysis of 10 mug of a cellular nuclear lysate, we were able to confidently identify over 1000 proteins. Compared to strong cation exchange chromatography (SCX), ZIC-HILIC shows better chromatographic resolution and absence of clustering of prevalent +2 and +3 charged peptides. At pH 3, ZIC-HILIC separation allows best orthogonality with RP and resembles conventional SCX separation. A significant enrichment of N-acetylated peptides in the first fractions is observed at these conditions. ZIC-HILIC separation at high pH (6.8 and 8), however, enables better chromatography, resulting in more comprehensive data acquisition. With this extended flexibility, we conclude that ZIC-HILIC is a very good alternative for the more conventional SCX in multidimensional peptide separation strategies.

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