Multidimensional separations of ubiquitin conformers in the gas phase: Relating ion cross sections to H/D exchange measurements
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- Robinson, E.W. & Williams, E.R. J Am Soc Mass Spectrom (2005) 16: 1427. doi:10.1016/j.jasms.2005.04.007
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Investigating gas-phase structures of protein ions can lead to an improved understanding of intramolecular forces that play an important role in protein folding. Both hydrogen/deuterium (H/D) exchange and ion mobility spectrometry provide insight into the structures and stabilities of different gas-phase conformers, but how best to relate the results from these two methods has been hotly debated. Here, high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) is combined with Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT/ICR MS) and is used to directly relate ubiquitin ion cross sections and H/D exchange extents. Multiple conformers can be identified using both methods. For the 9+ charge state of ubiquitin, two conformers (or unresolved populations of conformers) that have cross sections differing by 10% are resolved by FAIMS, but only one conformer is apparent using H/D exchange at short times. For the 12+ charge state, two conformers (or conformer populations) have cross sections differing by <1%, yet H/D exchange of these conformers differ significantly (6 versus 25 exchanges). These and other results show that ubiquitin ion collisional cross sections and H/D exchange distributions are not strongly correlated and that factors other than surface accessibility appear to play a significant role in determining rates and extents of H/D exchange. Conformers that are not resolved by one method could be resolved by the other, indicating that these two methods are highly complementary and that more conformations can be resolved with this combination of methods than by either method alone.