Here we propose a novel method for rapidly identifying proteins in complex mixtures. A list of candidate proteins (including provision for posttranslational modifications) is obtained by database searching, within a specified mass range about the accurately measured mass (e.g., ±0.1 Da at 10 kDa) of the intact protein, by capillary liquid chromatography electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (LC ESI FT-ICR MS). On alternate scans, LC ESI infrared multiphoton dissociation (IRMPD) FT-ICR MS yields mostly b and y fragment ions for each protein, from which the correct candidate is identified as the one with the highest 'hit' score (i.e., most band y fragments matching the candidate database protein amino acid sequence masses) and sequence 'tag' score (based on a series of fragment sequences differing in mass by 1 or 2 amino acids). The method succeeds in uniquely identifying each of a mixture of five proteins treated as unknowns (melittin, ubiquitin, GroES, myoglobin, carbonic anhydrase II), from more than 1000 possible database candidates within a ±500 Da mass window. We are also able to identify posttranslational modifications of two of the proteins (mellitin and GroES). The method is simple, rapid, and definitive and is extendable to a mixture of affinity-selected proteins, to identify proteins with a common biological function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry