Elucidating Escherichia coli Proteoform Families Using Intact-Mass Proteomics and a Global PTM Discovery Database

A proteoform family is a group of related molecular forms of a protein (proteoforms) derived from the same gene. We have previously described a strategy to identify proteoforms and elucidate proteoform families in complex mixtures of intact proteins. The strategy is based upon measurements of two properties for each proteoform: (i) the accurate proteoform intact-mass, measured by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC–MS), and (ii) the number of lysine residues in each proteoform, determined using an isotopic labeling approach. These measured properties are then compared with those extracted from a catalog of theoretical proteoforms containing protein sequences and localized post-translational modifications (PTMs) for the organism under study. A match between the measured properties and those in the catalog constitutes an identification of the proteoform. In the present study, this strategy is extended by utilizing a global PTM discovery database and is applied to the widely studied model organism Escherichia coli, providing the most comprehensive elucidation of E. coli proteoforms and proteoform families to date.