Online microwave D-cleavage LC-ESI-MS/MS of intact proteins: site-specific cleavages at aspartic acid residues and disulfide bonds

Nicolas J Hauser, Franco Basile
Journal of Proteome Research 2008, 7 (3): 1012-26
An online nonenzymatic digestion method utilizing a microwave-heated flow cell and mild acid hydrolysis at aspartic acid (D) for rapid protein identification is described. This methodology, here termed microwave D-cleavage, was tested with proteins ranging in size from 5 kDa (insulin) to 67 kDa (bovine serum albumin) and a bacterial cell lysate ( Escherichia coli). A microwave flow cell consisting of a 5 microL total volume reaction loop connected to a sealed reaction vessel was introduced into a research grade microwave oven. With this dynamic arrangement, the injected sample was subjected to microwave radiation as it flowed through the reaction loop and was digested in less than 5 min. Different digestion times can be achieved by varying the sample flow rate and/or length of the loop inside the microwave flow cell. The microwave flow cell can be operated individually with the output being collected for matrix assisted laser ionization/desorption (MALDI) mass spectrometry (MS) or connected online for liquid chromatography (LC) electrospray ionization (ESI)-MS. In the latter configuration, the microwave flow cell eluates containing digestion products were transferred online to a reversed phase liquid chromatography column for direct ESI-MS and ESI-MS/MS analyses (specifically, Collision Induced Dissociation, CID). Concurrently with the microwave D-cleavage step, disulfide bond reduction/cleavage was achieved by the coinjection of dithiothreitol (DTT) with the sample prior to online microwave heating and online LC-MS analysis and so eliminating the need for alkylation of the reduced protein. All protein standards, protein mixtures, and proteins in a bacterial cell lysate analyzed by this new online methodology were successfully identified via a SEQUEST database search of fragment ion mass spectra. Overall, online protein digestion and identification was achieved in less than 40 min total analysis time, including the chromatographic step.

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