Structural characterization of protein tryptic peptides via liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and collision-induced dissociation of their doubly charged molecular ions

Author(s): Covey TR, Huang EC, Henion JD


The formation of multiply charged molecular ions via the field-assisted ion evaporation mechanism during electrospray ionization enables the use of an atmospheric pressure ionization quadrupole mass spectrometer system for characterizing biologically important peptides. The straightforward implementation of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) into this new strategy to determine the molecular weight of tryptic peptides via the pneumatically assisted electrospray (ion spray) interface is presented. Examples utilizing both microbore (1.0 mm) and standard bore (4.6 mm) inside diameter columns are shown for the LC/MS molecular weight determination of tryptic peptides in methionyl-human growth hormone (met-hGH). Injected levels from 50 to 75 pmol of tryptic digest onto 1 mm i.d. HPLC columns provided full-scan LC/MS or LC/MS/MS results without postcolumn splitting of the effluent. When standard 4.6 mm i.d. HPLC columns were used, a 20:1 postcolumn split was utilized, which required from 1 to 5 nmol of injected tryptic digest for full-scan LC/MS or LC/MS/MS results. Collision-induced dissociation (CID) mass spectra resulting from either "infusion" or on-line LC/MS/MS analysis of the abundant doubly charged ions that predominate for tryptic peptides under electrospray conditions provided structurally useful sequence information for met-hGH and human hemoglobin tryptic digests. The slower mass spectrometer scan rate used during infusion of sample provides more accurate mass assignments than on-line LC/MS or LC/MS/MS, but the latter on-line experiments preclude ambiguities caused by matrix or component interferences. However, in some instances very weak CID product ions preclude complete tryptic peptide structural characterization based upon the CID data alone.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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