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Int J Mass Spectrom. 2009 Oct 15;287(1-3):96-104.

Comparison of Two ESI MS Based H/D Exchange Methods for Extracting Protein Folding Energies.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.


In this report, the model proteins staphylococcal nuclease and ubiquitin were used to test the applicability of two new hydrogen/deuterium exchange (HX) electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) methods for estimating protein folding energies. Both methods use the H/D exchange of globally protected amide protons (amide protons which are buried in the hydrophobic core) to elucidate protein folding energies. One method is a kinetic-based method and the other is equilibrium-based. The first method, the HX ESI-MS kinetic-based approach is conceptually identical to SUPREX (stability of unpurified proteins from rates of H/D exchange) method but is based on ESI-MS rather than MALDI-MS (matrix assisted laser desorption mass spectrometry). This method employs the time-dependence of H/D exchange using various denaturant concentrations to extract folding energies. Like SUPREX, this approach requires the assumption of EX2 exchange kinetics. The second method, which we call a protein equilibrium population snapshot (PEPS) by HX ESI-MS uses data collected only for a single time point (usually the shortest possible) to obtain a snapshot of the open and closed populations of the protein. The PEPS approach requires few assumptions in the derivation of the equations used for calculation of the folding energies. The extraction of folding energies from mass spectral data is simple and straightforward. The PEPS method is applicable for proteins that follow either EX1 or EX2 HX mechanisms. In our experiments the kinetic-based method produced less accurate ΔG(H(2)O) and m(GdHCl) values for wild-type staphylococcal nuclease and mutants undergoing H/D exchange by EX1, as would be expected. Better results were obtained for ubiquitin which undergoes HX by an EX2 mechanism. Using the PEPS method we obtained ΔG(H(2)O) and m(GdHCl) values that were in good agreement with literature values for both staphylococcal nuclease (EX1) and ubiquitin (EX2). We also show that the observation of straight lines in linear extrapolation method (LEM) plots is not a reliable indicator of the validity of the data obtained using the LEM approach.

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