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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2012 Aug;23(8):1376-89. doi: 10.1007/s13361-012-0417-8. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Enhanced methylarginine characterization by post-translational modification-specific targeted data acquisition and electron-transfer dissociation mass spectrometry.

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NSW Systems Biology Initiative, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


When localizing protein post-translational modifications (PTMs) using liquid-chromatography (LC)-tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), existing implementations are limited by inefficient selection of PTM-carrying peptides for MS/MS, particularly when PTM site occupancy is sub-stoichiometric. The present contribution describes a method by which peptides carrying specific PTMs of interest-in this study, methylarginines-may be selectively targeted for MS/MS: peptide features are extracted from high mass accuracy single-stage MS data, searched against theoretical PTM-carrying peptide masses, and matching features are subjected to targeted data acquisition LC-MS/MS. Using trypsin digested Saccharomyces cerevisiae Npl3, in which evidence is presented for 18 methylarginine sites-17 of which fall within a glycine-arginine-rich (GAR) domain spanning <120 amino acids-it is shown that this approach outperforms conventional data dependent acquisition (DDA): when applied to a complex protein mixture featuring in vivo methylated Npl3, 95% more (P=0.030) methylarginine-carrying peptides are selected for MS/MS than DDA, leading to an 86% increase (P=0.044) in the number of methylated peptides producing Mascot ion scores ≥20 following electron-transfer dissociation (ETD). Notably, significantly more low abundance arginine methylated peptides (maximum ion intensities <6×10(4) cps) are selected for MS/MS using this approach relative to DDA (50% more in a digest of purified in vitro methylated Npl3). It is also demonstrated that relative to collision-induced dissociation (CID), ETD facilitates a 586% increase (P=0.016) in average Mascot ion scores of methylarginine-carrying peptides. The present PTM-specific targeted data acquisition approach, though described using methylarginine, is applicable to any ionizable PTM of known mass.

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