4 years ago

Photoelectron Transfer Dissociation Reveals Surprising Favorability of Zwitterionic States in Large Gaseous Peptides and Proteins

Photoelectron Transfer Dissociation Reveals Surprising Favorability of Zwitterionic States in Large Gaseous Peptides and Proteins
James Bonner, Christopher Nellessen, Ryan R. Julian, Yana A. Lyon
Structural characterization of proteins in the gas phase is becoming increasingly popular, highlighting the need for a greater understanding of how proteins behave in the absence of solvent. It is clear that charged residues exert significant influence over structures in the gas phase due to strong Coulombic and hydrogen-bonding interactions. The net charge for a gaseous ion is easily identified by mass spectrometry, but the presence of zwitterionic pairs or salt bridges has previously been more difficult to detect. We show that these sites can be revealed by photoinduced electron transfer dissociation, which produces characteristic c and z ions only if zwitterionic species are present. Although previous work on small molecules has shown that zwitterionic pairs are rarely stable in the gas phase, we now demonstrate that charge-separated states are favored in larger molecules. Indeed, we have detected zwitterionic pairs in peptides and proteins where the net charge equals the number of basic sites, requiring additional protonation at nonbasic residues. For example, the small protein ubiquitin can sustain a zwitterionic conformer for all charge states up to 14+, despite having only 13 basic sites. Virtually all of the peptides/proteins examined herein contain zwitterionic sites if both acidic and basic residues are present and the overall charge density is low. This bias in favor of charge-separated states has important consequences for efforts to model gaseous proteins via computational analysis, which should consider not only charge state isomers that include salt bridges but also protonation at nonbasic residues.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jacs.7b02428

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b02428

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