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Evaluation of Different Stationary Phases in the Separation of Inter-Cross-Linked Peptides

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posted on 2019-02-20, 00:00 authored by Zixiang Fang, Yehia Z. Baghdady, Kevin A. Schug, Saiful M. Chowdhury
Chemical cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) is becoming a routinely and widely used technique for depicting and constructing protein structures and protein interaction networks. One major challenge for cross-linking/MS is the determination of informative low-abundant inter-cross-linked products, generated within a sample of high complexity. A C18 stationary phase is the conventional means for reversed-phase (RP) separation of inter-cross-linked peptides. Various RP stationary phases, which provide different selectivities and retentions, have been developed as alternatives to C18 stationary phases. In this study, two phenyl-based columns, biphenyl and fluorophenyl, were investigated and compared with a C18 phase for separating BS3 (bis­(sulfosuccinimidyl)­suberate) cross-linked bovine serum albumin (BSA) and myoglobin by bottom-up proteomics. Fractions from the three columns were collected and analyzed in a linear ion trap (LIT) mass spectrometer for improving detection of low abundant inter-cross-linked peptides. Among these three columns, the fluorophenyl column provides additional ion-exchange interaction and exhibits unique retention in separating the cross-linked peptides. The fractioned data was analyzed in pLink, showing the fluorophenyl column consistently obtained more inter-cross-linked peptide identifications than both C18 and biphenyl columns. For the BSA cross-linked sample, the identified inter-cross-linked peptide numbers of the fluorophenyl to C18 column are 136 to 102 in “low confident” results and 11 to 6 in “high confident” results. The fluorophenyl column could potentially be a better alternative for targeting the low stoichiometric inter-cross-linked peptides.

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