Perfluorooctanoic acid and ammonium perfluorooctanoate: volatile surfactants for proteome analysis?


A. A. Doucette, Department of Chemistry, Dalhousie University, P.O. Box 15000, 6274 Coburg Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3H 4R2.




Fluorinated surfactants are being explored as mass spectrometry (MS)-friendly alternatives to sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) for proteome analysis. Previous work demonstrates perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to be compatible with electrospray ionization (ESI)-MS. The high volatility of PFOA provides an intrinsic approach to potentially eliminate the surfactant during ESI, or alternatively through solvent evaporation prior to MS. The ammonium salt of PFOA, ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO), is likely favored for proteome experiments; the MS and liquid chromatography (LC)/MS tolerance of APFO has not been established for proteome applications.


Standard proteins and peptides, as well as a yeast proteome mixture, were individually spiked with surfactants (APFO, PFOA, SDS), and subjected to direct infusion ESI-MS, LC/MS/MS and LC/UV. The level of fluorinated surfactant remaining after solvent evaporation under varying conditions (time, pH, salt and protein content) was quantified and compared to the threshold tolerance level of the surfactant in an MS experiment (determined herein).


Whereas PFOA is found ineffective at assisting protein solubilization, APFO is as effective as SDS for resolubilization of acetone-precipitated yeast proteins (~100% recovery). Unfortunately, the LC and MS threshold tolerance of APFO is only minimally greater than SDS (~2-fold higher concentration to cause 50% suppression). Nonetheless, the benefits of APFO in a proteome experiment are realized following a one-step evaporation protocol for removal of the surfactant in acidified solvent.


APFO is considered a favoured alternative to SDS for proteome solubilization. Strictly speaking, APFO is not an 'MS-friendly' surfactant for proteome characterization; the detergent not only suppresses ESI signals at high concentration, but also perturbs reversed phase separation. However, the simplicity of APFO removal ahead of LC/MS justifies its use over the conventional SDS. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.