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Anal Chem. 2007 Dec 15;79(24):9243-52. Epub 2007 Nov 17.

Peptide sequencing and characterization of post-translational modifications by enhanced ion-charging and liquid chromatography electron-transfer dissociation tandem mass spectrometry.

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Protein Research Group, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark.


We have tested the effect of m-nitrobenzyl alcohol (m-NBA) as a method to increase the average charge state of protonated gas-phase molecular ions generated by ESI from tryptic peptides and phosphopeptides. Various concentrations of m-NBA were added to the mobile phases of a liquid chromatography system coupled to an ESI tandem mass spectrometer. Addition of just 0.1% m-NBA changed the average charge state for the identified tryptic BSA peptides from 2.2+ to 2.6+. As a result, the predominant charge states for BSA peptides were changed from 2+ to > or =3+. To evaluate the benefits of peptide charge enhancement, the ETD fragmentation efficiency and Mascot peptide score were compared for BSA peptides in charge states 2+ and 3+. In all cases but one, triply charged peptides fragmented more efficiently than the analogues 2+ peptide ions. On average, triply charged peptides received a 68% higher Mascot score (24 units) than doubly charged peptides. m-NBA also increased the average charge state of phosphopeptides by up to 0.5 charge unit. The ease of implementation and the analytical benefits of charge enhancement of tryptic peptides by addition of m-NBA to the LC solvents suggest the general application of this reagent in proteomic studies that employ ETD-MS/MS and related techniques.

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