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Eur J Mass Spectrom (Chichester). 2008;14(6):355-65. doi: 10.1255/ejms.963.

Intra-molecular cross-linking of acidic residues for protein structure studies.

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Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, CA 94551-0969, USA and Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague 4, CZ 14220, Czech Republic.


Intra-molecular cross-linking has been suggested as a method of obtaining distance constraints that would help to develop structural models of proteins. Recent work published on intra-molecular cross-linking for protein structural studies has employed commercially available primary amine (lysine, the amino terminus) selective reagents. Previous work using these cross-linkers has shown that for several proteins of known structure, the number of cross-links that can be obtained experimentally may be small compared to what would be expected from the known structure, due to the relative reactivity, distribution and solvent accessibility of the lysines in the protein sequence. To overcome these limitations, we have investigated the use of cross-linking reagents that can react with other reactive side chains in proteins. We used 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide hydrochloride (EDC) to activate the carboxylic acid containing residues, aspartic acid (D), glutamic acid (E) and the carboxy terminus (O), for cross-linking reactions. Once activated, the DEO side chains can react to form "zero-length" cross-links with nearby primary amine containing residues, lysines (K) and the amino terminus (X), via the formation of a new amide bond. We also show that the EDC-activated DEO side chains can be cross-linked to each other using dihydrazides, two hydrazide moieties connected by an alkyl cross-linker arm of variable length. Using these reagents, we have found three new "zero-length" cross-links in ubiquitin consistent with its known structure (M1-E16, M1-E18 and K63-E64). Using the dihydrazide cross-linkers, we have identified two new cross-links (D21-D32 and E24-D32) unambiguously. Using a library of dihydrazide cross-linkers with varying arm length, we have shown that there is a minimum arm length required for the DEO-DEO cross-links of 5.8 A. These results show that additional structural information can be obtained by exploiting new cross-linker chemistry, increasing the probability that the protein target will yield sufficient distance constraints to develop a structural model.

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