Microwave-assisted acid hydrolysis of proteins combined with liquid chromatography MALDI MS/MS for protein identification

Abstract

Simple and efficient digestion of proteins, particularly hydrophobic membrane proteins, is of significance for comprehensive proteome analysis using the bottom-up approach. We report a microwave-assisted acid hydrolysis (MAAH) method for rapid protein degradation for peptide mass mapping and tandem mass spectrometric analysis of peptides for protein identification. It uses 25% trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) aqueous solution to dissolve or suspend proteins, followed by microwave irradiation for 10 min. This detergent-free method generates peptide mixtures that can be directly analyzed by liquid chromatography (LC) matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry (MS) without the need of extensive sample cleanup. LC-MALDI MS/MS analysis of the hydrolysate from 5 µg of a model transmembrane protein, bacteriorhodopsin, resulted in almost complete sequence coverage by the peptides detected, including the identification of two posttranslational modification sites. Cleavage of peptide bonds inside all seven transmembrane domains took place, generating peptides of sizes amenable to MS/MS to determine possible sequence errors or modifications within these domains. Cleavage specificity, such as glycine residue cleavage, was observed. Terminal peptides were found to be present in relatively high abundance in the hydrolysate, particularly when low concentrations of proteins were used for MAAH. It was shown that these peptides could still be detected from MAAH of bacteriorhodopsin at a protein concentration of 1 ng/µl or 37 fmol/µl. To evaluate the general applicability of this method, it was applied to identify proteins from a membrane protein enriched fraction of cell lysates of human breast cancer cell line MCF7. With one-dimensional LC-MALDI MS/MS, a total of 119 proteins, including 41 membrane-associated or membrane proteins containing one to 12 transmembrane domains, were identified by MS/MS database searching based on matches of at least two peptides to a protein.

Published online February 10, 2005