Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 332–343

Which electrospray-based ionization method best reflects protein-ligand interactions found in solution? A comparison of ESI, nanoESI, and ESSI for the determination of dissociation constants with mass spectrometry


  • Matthias Conradin Jecklin
    • Department of Chemistry and Applied BiosciencesETH Zurich
  • David Touboul
    • Department of Chemistry and Applied BiosciencesETH Zurich
  • Cédric Bovet
    • Department of Chemistry and Applied BiosciencesETH Zurich
  • Arno Wortmann
    • Department of Chemistry and Applied BiosciencesETH Zurich
    • Department of Chemistry and Applied BiosciencesETH Zurich

DOI: 10.1016/j.jasms.2007.11.007

Cite this article as:
Jecklin, M.C., Touboul, D., Bovet, C. et al. J. Am. Soc. Spectrom. (2008) 19: 332. doi:10.1016/j.jasms.2007.11.007


We present a comparison of three different electrospray-based ionization techniques for the investigation of noncovalent complexes with mass spectrometry. The features and characteristics of standard electrospray ionization (ESI), chip-based nanoESI, and electrosonic spray ionization (ESSI) mounted onto a hybrid quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer were compared in their performance to determine the dissociation constant (KD) of the model system hen egg white lysozyme (HEWL) binding to N,N′,N″-triacetylchitotriose (NAG3). The best KD value compared with solution data were found for ESSI, 19.4 ± 3.6 µM. Then, we determined the KDs of the two nucleotide binding sites of adenylate kinase (AK), where we obtained KDs of 2.2 ± 0.8 µM for the first and 19.5 ± 8.0 µM for the second binding site using ESSI. We found a weak charge state dependence of the KD for both protein-ligand systems, where for all ionization techniques the KD value decreases with increasing charge state. We demonstrate that ESSI is very gentle and insensitive to instrumental parameters, and the KD obtained is in good agreement with solution phase results from the literature. In addition, we tried to determine the KD for the lymphocyte-specific kinase LCK binding to a kinase inhibitor using nanoESI due to the very low amount of sample available. In this case, we found KD values with a strong charge state dependence, which were in no case close to literature values for solution phase.

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© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2008