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Anal Chem. 2011 Jul 15;83(14):5598-606. doi: 10.1021/ac200695d. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Native electrospray and electron-capture dissociation FTICR mass spectrometry for top-down studies of protein assemblies.

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Department of Chemistry, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, United States.


The high sensitivity, extended mass range, and fast data acquisition/processing of mass spectrometry and its coupling with native electrospray ionization (ESI) make the combination complementary to other biophysical methods of protein analysis. Protein assemblies with molecular masses up to MDa are now accessible by this approach. Most current approaches have used quadrupole/time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion mobility, to reveal stoichiometry, shape, and dissociation of protein assemblies. The amino-acid sequence of the subunits, however, still relies heavily on independent bottom-up proteomics. We describe here an approach to study protein assemblies that integrates electron-capture dissociation (ECD), native ESI, and FTICR mass spectrometry (12 T). Flexible regions of assembly subunits of yeast alcohol dehydrogenase (147 kDa), concanavalin A (103 kDa), and photosynthetic Fenna-Matthews-Olson antenna protein complex (140 kDa) can be sequenced by ECD or "activated-ion" ECD. Furthermore, noncovalent metal-binding sites can also be determined for the concanavalin A assembly. Most importantly, the regions that undergo fragmentation, either from one of the termini by ECD or from the middle of a protein, as initiated by CID, correlate well with the B-factor from X-ray crystallography of that protein. This factor is a measure of the extent an atom can move from its coordinated position as a function of temperature or crystal imperfections. The approach provides not only top-down proteomics information of the complex subunits but also structural insights complementary to those obtained by ion mobility.

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