Discriminating d-Amino Acid-Containing Peptide Epimers by Radical-Directed Dissociation Mass Spectrometry

The presence of a single d-amino acid in a peptide is very difficult to detect. Mass spectrometry-based approaches rely on differences in fragmentation between all l-amino acid-containing peptides and single d-amino acid-containing peptides (which are epimers) for identification. The success of this approach is dependent on the structural sensitivity of the fragmentation method. Recently, experiments have demonstrated that fragmentation initiated by radical chemistry, or radical-directed dissociation (RDD), is particularly sensitive to the structure of the ion being fragmented. Herein, RDD is used to identify the presence of d-serine, d-alanine, or d-aspartic acid in eight biologically relevant peptides. It is demonstrated that chiral disambiguation by RDD is dependent on both the initial radical site and subsequent radical migration. Fortuitously, RDD can be initiated by a variety of different radical precursors which can be associated with the peptide via covalent or noncovalent means, and RDD can be examined in all observable charge states (both positive and negative). This diversity enables numerous initial radical sites and migration pathways to be explored. For all but one of the peptides that were examined, RDD provides significantly better chiral discrimination than CID. Quantitation of peptide epimers by RDD is also described.