In this study a selective tagging strategy for the derivatisation of arginine residues in peptides is presented. It is based on the reaction of the guanidine group of the arginine side-chain with malondialdehyde (MDA) under strongly acidic conditions, in which a stable pyrimidine ring is formed. The reaction conditions have been optimised so that quantitative modification can be achieved for a variety of peptides.
The label has a strong influence on the polarity and basicity of the arginine side-chain and thus on the chromatographic and mass spectrometric properties of arginine-containing peptides. For example, retention, particularly of small and polar peptides as well as arginine-rich peptides, is significantly increased by derivatisation, and therefore sensitivity is also enhanced in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). The arginine side-chain also has a strong impact on the fragmentation behaviour of peptides in tandem mass spectrometry. This has been investigated for standard peptides for which, in some cases, significantly more fragment ions were formed after derivatisation. Finally, the method was tested for tryptic digests of standard proteins to demonstrate how the tagging strategy can give improved or complementary information for protein identification. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.