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Anal Chem. 1996 Jun 1;68(11):1822-8.

Protein identification by capillary zone electrophoresis/microelectrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry at the subfemtomole level.

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Department of Molecular Biotechnology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195-7730, USA.


A method for the identification of proteins by their amino acid sequence at the low-femtomole to subfemtomole sensitivity level is described. It is based on an integrated system consisting of a capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE) instrument coupled to an electrospray ionization triple- quadrupole tandem mass spectrometer (ESI-MS/MS) via a microspray interface. The method consists of proteolytic fragmentation of a protein, peptide separation by CZE, analysis of separated peptides by ESI-MS/MS, and identification of the protein by correlation of the collision-induced dissociation (CID) patterns of selected peptides with the CID patterns predicted from all the isobaric peptides in a sequence database. Using standard peptides applied to a 20-microns-i.d. capillary, we demonstrate an ESI-MS limit of detection of less than 300 amol and CID spectra suitable for searching sequence databases obtained with 600 amol of sample applied to the capillary. Successful protein identification by the method was demonstrated by applying 50 and 38 fmol of a tryptic digest of the proteins beta-lactoglobulin and bovine serum albumin, respectively, to the system.

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