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Anal Chem. 1991 Nov 1;63(21):2488-99.

Tandem mass spectrometry of very large molecules: serum albumin sequence information from multiply charged ions formed by electrospray ionization.

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Chemical Sciences Department, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, Washington 99352.


Serum albumin proteins, Mr approximately 66 kDa, from 10 different species (bovine, human, rat, horse, sheep, goat, rabbit, dog, porcine, and guinea pig) have been studied by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and tandem MS using a triple-quadrupole instrument. The effectiveness of collisional activation for the multiply charged albumin ions greatly exceeds that for singly charged ions, allowing an extension by a factor of at least 20 to the molecular mass range for obtaining sequence-specific product ions by tandem MS. Efficient dissociation is largely attributed to "preheating" in the interface Coulombic instability and the large number of collisions. Increasing the electric field in the intermediate pressure region, between the nozzle-skimmer elements of the atmospheric pressure/vacuum interface, allows fragmentation of the multiply protonated (to 96+) molecules produced by ESI. The most abundant dissociation product ions assigned have a low charge state (2+ to 5+) and are attributed to "bn" mode species from cleavage of the -CO-N- peptide backbone bonds. Particularly abundant dissociation products originate from regions near residues n = 20-25 from the NH2 terminus for parent ions of moderate charge (approximately 50+). Collisionally activated dissociation (CAD) mass spectra from porcine serum albumin, in contrast to the other albumins, also gave prominent singly charged "yn" fragments formed from cleavages near the COOH terminus. Tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) of the multiply charged molecular ions, and of fragment species produced by dissociation in the interface (i.e., effective MS/MS/MS), produced similar "bn" species and served to confirm spectral assignments. We also show that ESI mass spectra allow a qualitative assessment of protein microheterogeneity and, in some cases, resolution of major contributions. The physical and analytical implications of the results are discussed, including the identification of possible errors in previously published sequences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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