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Abstract

Mass spectrometric analysis of wild-type proteins that have been covalently modified by bifunctional cross-linking reagents and then digested proteolytically can be used to obtain low-resolution distance constraints, which can be useful for protein structure determination. Limitations of this approach include time-consuming separation steps, such as the separation of internally cross-linked protein monomers from covalent dimers, and a susceptibility to artifacts due to low levels of natural and man-made peptide modifications that can be mistaken for cross-linked species. The results presented here show that when a crude cross-linked protein mixture is injected into an electrospray ionization Fourier transform mass spectrometry (ESI-FTMS) instrument, the cross-link positions can be localized by fragmentation and mass spectrometry on the ‘gas-phase purified’ singly internally cross-linked monomer. Our results show that reaction of ubiquitin with the homobifunctional lysine-lysine cross-linking reagent dissuccinimidyl suberate (DSS) resulted in two cross-links consistent with the known ubiquitin tertiary structure (K6-K11 and K48-K63). Because no protein or peptide chemistry steps are needed, other than the initial cross-linking, this new top down approach appears well suited for high-throughput experiments with multiple cross-linkers and reaction conditions. Published in 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.