Nontargeted Identification of Reactive Metabolite Protein Adducts

Metabolic bioactivation of many different chemicals results in the formation of highly reactive compounds (chemically reactive metabolites, CRMs) that can lead to toxicity via binding to macromolecular targets (e.g., proteins or DNA). There is a need to develop robust, rapid, and nontargeted analytical techniques to determine the identity of the protein targets of CRMs and their sites of modification. Here, we introduce a nontargeted methodology capable of determining both the identity of a CRM formed from an administered compound as well as the protein targets modified by the reactive metabolite in a single experiment without prior information. Acetaminophen (N-acetyl-p-aminophenol, APAP) and 13C6-APAP were incubated with rat liver microsomes, which are known to bioactivate APAP to the reactive metabolite N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI). Global tryptic digestion followed by liquid chromatographic/mass spectrometric (LC/MS) analysis was used to locate “twin” ion peaks of peptides adducted by NAPQI and for shotgun proteomics via tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). By the development of blended data analytics software called Xenophile, the identity of the amino acid residue that was adducted can be established, which eliminates the need for specific parametrization of protein database search algorithms. This combination of experimental design and data analysis software allows the identity of a CRM, the protein target, and the amino acid residues that are modified to be rapidly established directly from experimental data. Xenophile is freely available from https://github.com/mgleeming/Xenophile.