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Improved Discrimination of Asymmetric and Symmetric Arginine Dimethylation by Optimization of the Normalized Collision Energy in Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry Proteomics

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journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2020, 16:06 by Nicolas G. Hartel, Christopher Z. Liu, Nicholas A. Graham
Protein arginine methylation regulates diverse biological processes including signaling, metabolism, splicing, and transcription. Despite its important biological roles, arginine dimethylation remains an understudied post-translational modification. Partly, this is because the two forms of arginine dimethylation, asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), are isobaric and therefore indistinguishable by traditional mass spectrometry techniques. Thus, there exists a need for methods that can differentiate these two modifications. Recently, it has been shown that the ADMA and SDMA can be distinguished by the characteristic neutral loss (NL) of dimethylamine and methylamine, respectively. However, the utility of this method is limited because the vast majority of dimethylarginine peptides do not generate measurable NL ions. Here, we report that increasing the normalized collision energy (NCE) in a higher-energy collisional dissociation cell increases the generation of the characteristic NLs that distinguish ADMA and SDMA. By analyzing both synthetic and endogenous methyl-peptides, we identify an optimal NCE value that maximizes NL generation and simultaneously improves methyl-peptide identification. Using two orthogonal methyl-peptide enrichment strategies, high pH strong cation-exchange and immunoaffinity purification, we demonstrate that the optimal NCE improves NL-based ADMA and SDMA annotation and dimethyl-peptide identifications by 125% and 17%, respectively, compared to the standard NCE. This simple parameter change will greatly facilitate the identification and annotation of ADMA and SDMA in mass spectrometry-based methyl-proteomics to improve our understanding of how these modifications differentially regulate protein function. All raw data have been deposited in the PRIDE database with accession number PXD017193.