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Proton Transfer Charge Reduction Enables High-Throughput Top-Down Analysis of Large Proteoforms

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journal contribution
posted on 22.11.2019, 17:40 by Romain Huguet, Christopher Mullen, Kristina Srzentić, Joseph B. Greer, Ryan T. Fellers, Vlad Zabrouskov, John E. P. Syka, Neil L. Kelleher, Luca Fornelli
Despite the recent technological advances in Fourier transform mass spectrometry (FTMS) instrumentation, top-down proteomics (TDP) is currently mostly applied to the characterization of proteoforms <30 kDa due to the poor performance of high-resolution FTMS for the analysis of larger proteoforms and the high complexity of intact proteomes in the 30–60 kDa mass range. Here, we propose a novel data acquisition method based on ion–ion proton transfer, herein termed proton transfer charge reduction (PTCR), to investigate large proteoforms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a high-throughput fashion. We designed a targeted data acquisition strategy, named tPTCR, which applies two consecutive gas phase fractionation steps for obtaining intact precursor masses: first, a narrow (1.5 m/z-wide) quadrupole filter m/z transmission window is used to select a subset of charge states from all ionized proteoform cations; second, this aliquot of protein cations is subjected to PTCR in order to reduce their average charge state: upon m/z analysis in an Orbitrap, proteoform mass spectra with minimal m/z peak overlap and easy-to-interpret charge state distributions are obtained, simplifying the proteoform mass calculation. Subsequently, the same quadrupole-selected narrow m/z region of analytes is subjected to collisional dissociation to obtain proteoform sequence information, which used in combination with intact mass information leads to proteoform identification through an off-line database search. The newly proposed method was benchmarked against the previously developed “medium/high” data-dependent acquisition strategy and doubled the number of UniProt entries and proteoforms >30 kDa identified on the liquid chromatography time scale.