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Abstract

Techniques in mass spectrometry (MS) combined with chemical cross-linking have proven to be efficient tools for the rapid determination of low-resolution three-dimensional (3-D) structures of proteins. The general procedure involves chemical cross-linking of a protein followed by enzymatic digestion and MS analysis of the resulting peptide mixture. These experiments are generally fast and do not require large quantities of protein. However, the large number of peptide species created from the digestion of cross-linked proteins makes it difficult to identify relevant intermolecular cross-linked peptides from MS data. We present a method for mapping low-resolution 3-D protein structures by combining chemical cross-linking with high-resolution FTICR (Fourier transform ion-cyclotron resonance) mass spectrometry using cytochrome c and hen egg lysozyme as model proteins. We applied several homo-bifunctional, amine-reactive cross-linking reagents that bridge distances from 6 to 16 Å. The non-digested cross-linking reaction mixtures were monitored by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) to determine the extent of cross-linking. Enzymatically digested reaction mixtures were separated by nano-high-performance liquid chromatography (nano-HPLC) on reverse-phase columns applying water/acetonitrile gradients with flow rates of 200 nL/min. The nano-HPLC system was directly coupled to an FTICR mass spectrometer equipped with a nano-ESI (electrospray ionization) source. Cross-linking products were identified using a combination of the GPMAW software and ExPASy Proteomics tools. For correct assignment of the cross-linking products the key factor is to rely on a mass spectrometric method providing both high resolution and high mass accuracy, such as FTICRMS. By combining chemical cross-linking with FTICRMS we were able to rapidly define several intramolecular constraints for cytochrome c and lysozyme. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.