Initial Protein Unfolding Events in Ubiquitin, Cytochrome c and Myoglobin Are Revealed with the Use of 213 nm UVPD Coupled to IM-MS

The initial stages of protein unfolding may reflect the stability of the entire fold and can also reveal which parts of a protein can be perturbed, without restructuring the rest. In this work, we couple UVPD with activated ion mobility mass spectrometry to measure how three model proteins start to unfold. Ubiquitin, cytochrome c and myoglobin ions produced via nESI from salty solutions are subjected to UV irradiation pre-mobility separation; experiments are conducted with a range of source conditions which alter the conformation of the precursor ion as shown by the drift time profiles. For all three proteins, the compact structures result in less fragmentation than more extended structures which emerge following progressive in-source activation. Cleavage sites are found to differ between conformational ensembles, for example, for the dominant charge state of cytochrome c [M + 7H]7+, cleavage at Phe10, Thr19 and Val20 was only observed in activating conditions whilst cleavage at Ala43 is dramatically enhanced. Mapping the photo-cleaved fragments onto crystallographic structures provides insight into the local structural changes that occur as protein unfolding progresses, which is coupled to global restructuring observed in the drift time profiles.

Alina TheisenRachelle BlackDavide CorintiJeffery M. BrownBruno Bellina and  Perdita E. Barran

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