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New supercharging reagents produce highly charged protein ions in native mass spectrometry


The effectiveness of two new supercharging reagents for producing highly charged ions by electrospray ionization (ESI) from aqueous solutions in which proteins have native structures and reactivities were investigated. In aqueous solution, 2-thiophenone and 4-hydroxymethyl-1,3-dioxolan-2-one (HD) at a concentration of 2% by volume can increase the average charge of cytochrome c and myoglobin by up to 163%, resulting in even higher charge states than those that are produced from water/methanol/acid solutions in which these proteins are denatured. The greatest extent of supercharging occurs in pure water, but these supercharging reagents are also highly effective in aqueous solutions containing 200 mM ammonium acetate buffer commonly used in native mass spectrometry (MS). These reagents are less effective supercharging reagents than m-nitrobenzyl alcohol (m-NBA) and propylene carbonate (PC) when ions are formed from water/methanol/acid. The extent to which loss of the heme group from myoglobin occurs is related to the extent of supercharging. Results from guanidine melts of cytochrome c monitored with tryptophan fluorescence show that the supercharging reagents PC, sulfolane and HD are effective chemical denaturants in solution. These results provide additional evidence for the role of protein structural changes in the electrospray droplet as the primary mechanism for supercharging with these reagents in native MS. These results also demonstrate that for at least some proteins, the formation of highly charged ions from native MS is no longer a significant barrier for obtaining structural information using conventional tandem MS methods.

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