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Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2008 Apr;9(2):150-80.

The structural analysis of large noncovalent oxygen binding proteins by MALLS and ESI-MS: a review on annelid hexagonal bilayer hemoglobin and crustacean hemocyanin.

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UPMC Univ. Paris 06, UMR 7144, Equipe Ecophysiologie, Adaptation et Evolution Mol├ęculaires, Station Biologique de Roscoff, France.


Understanding the function of macromolecular complexes is related to a precise knowledge of their structure. These large complexes are often fragile high molecular mass noncovalent multimeric proteins. Classical biochemical methods for determination of their native mass and subunit composition were used to resolve their quaternary structure, sometimes leading to different models. Recently, the development of mass spectrometry and multi-angle laser light scattering (MALLS) has enabled absolute determination of native masses and subunit masses. Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) was used in denaturing and native conditions to probe subunit composition and noncovalent assemblies masses up to 2.25 MDa. In a complementary way, MALLS provides mass and size estimation in various aqueous solvents. ESI-MS method can also give insights into post-translational modifications (glycosylation, disulfide bridges ). By combining native mass and subunit composition data, structural models can be proposed for large edifices such as annelid extracellular hexagonal bilayer hemoglobins (HBL Hb) and crustacean hemocyanins (Hc). Association/dissociation mechanisms, protein-protein interactions, structural diversity among species and environmental adaptations can also be addressed with these methods. With their absolute mass determination, the very high precision of spectrometry and the versatile nature of light scattering, ESI-MS and MALLS have provided a wealth of data helping to resolve parts of controversies for HBL-Hb models and opening access to new fields of investigation in structural diversity and molecular adaptation. In this review we will focus on annelid HBL-Hb and on crustacean Hc and on the original contributions of ESI-MS and MALLS in this field.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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