A mass spectrometry-based method to screen for α-amidated peptides



Amidation is a post-translational modification found at the C-terminus of ∼50% of all neuropeptide hormones. Cleavage of the Cα–N bond of a C-terminal glycine yields the α-amidated peptide in a reaction catalyzed by peptidylglycine α-amidating monooxygenase (PAM). The mass of an α-amidated peptide decreases by 58 Da relative to its precursor. The amino acid sequences of an α-amidated peptide and its precursor differ only by the C-terminal glycine meaning that the peptides exhibit similar RP-HPLC properties and tandem mass spectral (MS/MS) fragmentation patterns. Growth of cultured cells in the presence of a PAM inhibitor ensured the coexistence of α-amidated peptides and their precursors. A strategy was developed for precursor and α-amidated peptide pairing (PAPP): LC-MS/MS data of peptide extracts were scanned for peptide pairs that differed by 58 Da in mass, but had similar RP-HPLC retention times. The resulting peptide pairs were validated by checking for similar fragmentation patterns in their MS/MS data prior to identification by database searching or manual interpretation. This approach significantly reduced the number of spectra requiring interpretation, decreasing the computing time required for database searching and enabling manual interpretation of unidentified spectra. Reported here are the α-amidated peptides identified from AtT-20 cells using the PAPP method.