Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 1325–1341

Ion-Ion and ion-molecule reactions at the surface of proteins produced by nanospray. Information on the number of acidic residues and control of the number of ionized acidic and basic residues


  • Udo H. Verkerk
    • Department of ChemistryUniversity of Alberta
    • Department of ChemistryUniversity of Alberta

DOI: 10.1016/j.jasms.2005.03.018

Cite this article as:
Verkerk, U.H. & Kebarle, P. J Am Soc Mass Spectrom (2005) 16: 1325. doi:10.1016/j.jasms.2005.03.018


Mass Spectra of charge states of folded proteins were obtained with nanospray and aqueous solution containing 20 µM the protein (ubiquitin, cytochrome c, lysozyme) and one of the NaA salts NaCl, NaI, NaAc (acetate) (1–10 mM). At very low collision activated decomposition (CAD), the mass spectra of a protein with charge z exhibited a replacement of zH+ with zNa+ and also multiple adducts of NaA. Higher CAD converts the NaA adduct peaks to Na minus H peaks. These must be due to loss of HA where the H was provided by the protein. The degree of HA loss with increasing CAD followed the order I<Cl<Ac. Significantly, the intensity of the ions with n (Na minus H) adducts showed a downward break past an nMAX which is equal to the number of acidic residues of the protein plus the charge of the protein. All the observations could be rationalized within the framework of the electrospray mechanism and the charge residue model, which predict that due to extensive evaporation of solvent, the solutes will reach very high concentrations in the final charged droplets. At such high concentrations, positive ions such as Na+, NH4+ form ion pairs with ionized acidic residues and the negative A form ion pairs with ionized basic residues of the protein. Adducts of Na+, and NaA to backbone amide groups occur also. This reaction mechanism fits all the experimental observations and provides predictions that the number of acidic and basic groups at the surface of the gaseous protein that remain ionized can be controlled by the absence or presence of additives to the solution.

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© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2005