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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 17;108(20):8269-74. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018887108. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

Cysteine shotgun-mass spectrometry (CS-MS) reveals dynamic sequence of protein structure changes within mutant and stressed cells.

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Molecular and Cell Biophysics Lab, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Questions of if and when protein structures change within cells pervade biology and include questions of how the cytoskeleton sustains stresses on cells--particularly in mutant versus normal cells. Cysteine shotgun labeling with fluorophores is analyzed here with mass spectrometry of the spectrin-actin membrane skeleton in sheared red blood cell ghosts from normal and diseased mice. Sheared samples are compared to static samples at 37 °C in terms of cell membrane intensity in fluorescence microscopy, separated protein fluorescence, and tryptic peptide modification in liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Spectrin labeling proves to be the most sensitive to shear, whereas binding partners ankyrin and actin exhibit shear thresholds in labeling and both the ankyrin-binding membrane protein band 3 and the spectrin-actin stabilizer 4.1R show minimal differential labeling. Cells from 4.1R-null mice differ significantly from normal in the shear-dependent labeling of spectrin, ankyrin, and band 3: Decreased labeling of spectrin reveals less stress on the mutant network as spectrin dissociates from actin. Mapping the stress-dependent labeling kinetics of α- and β-spectrin by LC-MS/MS identifies Cys in these antiparallel chains that are either force-enhanced or force-independent in labeling, with structural analyses indicating the force-enhanced sites are sequestered either in spectrin's triple-helical domains or in interactions with actin or ankyrin. Shear-sensitive sites identified comprehensively here in both spectrin and ankyrin appear consistent with stress relief through forced unfolding followed by cytoskeletal disruption.

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