A general precursor ion-like scanning mode on quadrupole-TOF instruments compatible with chromatographic separation



MS protein identification and quantitation are key proteomic techniques in biological research. Besides identification of proteins, MS is used increasingly to characterize secondary protein modifications. This often requires trimming the analytical strategy to a specific type of modification. Direct analysis of protein modifications in proteomic samples is often hampered by the limited dynamic range of current analytical tools. Here we present a fast, sensitive, multiplexed precursor ion scanning mode – implemented on a quadrupole-TOF instrument – that allows the specific detection of any modified peptide or molecule that reveals itself by a specific fragment ion or pattern of fragment ions within a complex proteomic sample. The high mass accuracy of the TOF mass spectrometer is available for the marker ion specificity and the precursor ion mass determination. The method is compatible with chromatographic separation. Fragment ions and intact molecular ions are acquired quasi-simultaneously by continuously switching the collision energy between elevated and low levels. Using this technique many secondary modifications can be analyzed in parallel; however, the number of peptides carrying a specific modification that can be analyzed successfully is limited by the chromatographic resolution or, more generally, by the depth of the resolved time domain.