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Keywords:

  • Liquid chromatography;
  • Mass spectrometry;
  • Posttranslational modifications;
  • Protein separation;
  • Technology;
  • Ultra performance liquid chromatography

Top-down MS-based proteomics has gained a solid growth over the past few years but still faces significant challenges in the LC separation of intact proteins. In top-down proteomics, it is essential to separate the high mass proteins from the low mass species due to the exponential decay in S/N as a function of increasing molecular mass. SEC is a favored LC method for size-based separation of proteins but suffers from notoriously low resolution and detrimental dilution. Herein, we reported the use of ultrahigh pressure (UHP) SEC for rapid and high-resolution separation of intact proteins for top-down proteomics. Fast separation of intact proteins (6–669 kDa) was achieved in < 7 min with high resolution and high efficiency. More importantly, we have shown that this UHP-SEC provides high-resolution separation of intact proteins using a MS-friendly volatile solvent system, allowing the direct top-down MS analysis of SEC-eluted proteins without an additional desalting step. Taken together, we have demonstrated that UHP-SEC is an attractive LC strategy for the size separation of proteins with great potential for top-down proteomics.