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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2010 Aug;21(8):1339-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2010.03.047. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

'Fixed charge' chemical derivatization and data dependant multistage tandem mass spectrometry for mapping protein surface residue accessibility.

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Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48842, USA.


Protein surface accessible residues play an important role in protein folding, protein-protein interactions and protein-ligand binding. However, a common problem associated with the use of selective chemical labeling methods for mapping protein solvent accessible residues is that when a complicated peptide mixture resulting from a large protein or protein complex is analyzed, the modified peptides may be difficult to identify and characterize amongst the largely unmodified peptide population (i.e., the 'needle in a haystack' problem). To address this challenge, we describe here the development of a strategy involving the synthesis and application of a novel 'fixed charge' sulfonium ion containing lysine-specific protein modification reagent, S,S'-dimethylthiobutanoylhydroxysuccinimide ester (DMBNHS), coupled with capillary HPLC-ESI-MS, automated CID-MS/MS, and data-dependant neutral loss mode MS(3) in an ion trap mass spectrometer, to map the surface accessible lysine residues in a small model protein, cellular retinoic acid binding protein II (CRABP II). After reaction with different reagent:protein ratios and digestion with Glu-C, modified peptides are selectively identified and the number of modifications within each peptide are determined by CID-MS/MS, via the exclusive neutral loss(es) of dimethylsulfide, independently of the amino acid composition and precursor ion charge state (i.e., proton mobility) of the peptide. The observation of these characteristic neutral losses are then used to automatically 'trigger' the acquisition of an MS(3) spectrum to allow the peptide sequence and the site(s) of modification to be characterized. Using this approach, the experimentally determined relative solvent accessibilities of the lysine residues were found to show good agreement with the known solution structure of CRABP II.

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