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Large-scale Top-down Proteomics Using Capillary Zone Electrophoresis Tandem Mass Spectrometry

Published: October 24th, 2018



1Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, 2Department of BioHealth Informatics, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 3Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Indiana University School of Medicine
* These authors contributed equally

A detailed protocol is described for the separation, identification, and characterization of proteoforms in protein samples using capillary zone electrophoresis-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (CZE-ESI-MS/MS). The protocol can be used for the high-resolution characterization of proteoforms in simple protein samples and the large-scale identification of proteoforms in complex proteome samples.

Capillary zone electrophoresis-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (CZE-ESI-MS/MS) has been recognized as a useful tool for top-down proteomics that aims to characterize proteoforms in complex proteomes. However, the application of CZE-MS/MS for large-scale top-down proteomics has been impeded by the low sample-loading capacity and narrow separation window of CZE. Here, a protocol is described using CZE-MS/MS with a microliter-scale sample-loading volume and a 90-min separation window for large-scale top-down proteomics. The CZE-MS/MS platform is based on a linear polyacrylamide (LPA)-coated separation capillary with extremely low electroosmotic flow, a dynamic pH-junction-based online sample concentration method with a high efficiency for protein stacking, an electro-kinetically pumped sheath flow CE-MS interface with extremely high sensitivity, and an ion trap mass spectrometer with high mass resolution and scan speed. The platform can be used for the high-resolution characterization of simple intact protein samples and the large-scale characterization of proteoforms in various complex proteomes. As an example, a highly efficient separation of a standard protein mixture and a highly sensitive detection of many impurities using the platform is demonstrated. As another example, this platform can produce over 500 proteoform and 190 protein identifications from an Escherichia coli proteome in a single CZE-MS/MS run.

Top-down proteomics (TDP) aims for the large-scale characterization of proteoforms within a proteome. TDP relies on the effective liquid-phase separation of intact proteins before electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) analysis due to the high complexity and large concentration dynamic range of the proteome1,2,3,4,5. Capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE) is a powerful technique for the separation of biomolecules based on their size-to-charge ratios6. CZE is relat....

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1. Preparation of LPA Coating on the Inner Wall of the Separation Capillary

  1. Pretreatment of the capillary
    1. Flush a fused silica capillary (120 cm in length, 50 µm in inner diameter [i.d.], 360 µm in outer diameter [o.d.]) successively with 500 µL of 1 M sodium hydroxide, deionized water, 1 M hydrochloric acid, deionized water, and LC-MS grade methanol using a syringe pump.
    2. Dry the capillary with nitrogen gas (10 psi, ≥ 12 h) and fill the capillary wi.......

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Figure 1 shows a diagram of the dynamic pH-junction-based CZE-ESI-MS system used in the experiment. A long plug of the sample in a basic buffer is injected into an LPA-coated separation capillary filled with an acidic BGE. After applying high voltages I and II, the analytes in the sample zone will be concentrated via the dynamic pH junction method. To evaluate the performance of the CZE-MS system, a standard protein mixture (cytochrome c, lysozy.......

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Here we provide a detailed protocol to use CZE-MS/MS forthe high-resolution characterization of proteoforms in simple protein samples and for the large-scale identification of proteoforms in complex proteome samples. A diagram of the CZE-ESI-MS/MS system is shown in Figure 1. There are four critical steps in the protocol. First, the preparation of high-quality LPA coating on the inner wall of the separation capillary is extremely important. An LPA-coated separation capillary can reduce the E.......

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The authors thank Heedeok Hong's group at the Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University, for kindly providing the Escherichia coli cells for the experiments. The authors thank the support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through Grant R01GM118470 (to X. Liu) and Grant R01GM125991 (to L. Sun and X. Liu).


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Fused silica capillary Polymicro Technologies 1068150017 50 µm i.d. 360 µm o.d.
Sodium hydroxide pellets Macron Fine Chemicals 7708-10 Corrosive
LC-MS grade water Fisher Scientific W6-1
Hydrochloric acid Fisher Scientific SA48-1 Corrosive
Methanol Fisher Scientific A456-4 Toxic, Health Hazard
3-(Trimethoxysilyl)propyl methacrylate Sigma-Aldrich M6514 Moisture and heat sensitive
Hydrofluoric acid Acros Organics 423805000 Highy toxic
Acrylamide Acros Organics 164855000 Toxic, health hazard
Ammonium persulfate Sigma-Aldrich A3678 Health hazard, Oxidizer
lysozyme Sigma-Aldrich L6876
Cytochrome C Sigma-Aldrich C7752
Myoglobin Sigma-Aldrich M1882
ß-casein Sgma-Aldrich C6905
Carbonic anhydrase Sigma-Aldrich C3934
Bovine serum albumin Sigma-Aldrich A2153
Urea Alfa Aesar 36428-36
DL-Dithiothreitol Sigma-Aldrich D0632 Health Hazard
Iodoacetamide Fisher Scientific AC122270250 Health Hazard
Formic Acid Fisher Scientific A117-50 Corrosive, Health Hazard
C4 trap column Sepax Technologies 110043-4001C 3 µm particles, 300 Å pores, 4.0 mm i.d. 10 mm long
Acetonitrile Fisher Scientific A998SK-4 Toxic, Oxidizer
Ammonium bicarbonate Sigma-Aldrich 1066-33-7
Nalgene rapid-flow filters Thermo Scientific 126-0020 0.2 µm CN membrane, and 50 mm diameter
E. coli cells K-12 MG1655
Dulbecco's phosphate-buffered saline Sigma-Aldrich D8537
BCA assay Thermo Scientific 23250
Acetone Fisher Scientific A11-1
HPLC system for protein desalting Agilient 1260 Infinity II
Acetic Acid Fisher Scientific A38-212
CE autosampler CMP Scientific ECE-001
Electro-kinetically pumped sheath flow interface CMP Scientific
Q Exactive HF Hybrid Quadrupole-Orbitrap Mass Spectrometer Thermo Fisher Scientific
Sutter flaming/brown micropipette puller Sutter Instruments P-1000
Ultrasonic cell disruptor for cell lysis Branson 101063196 Model S-250A
Vaccum concentrator Thermo Fisher Scientific SPD131DDA-115

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