Phosphorylation is a common form of protein modification. To understand its biological role, the site of phosphorylation has to be determined. Generally, only limited amounts of phosphorylated proteins are present in a cell, thus demanding highly sensitive procedures for phosphorylation site determination. Here, a novel method is introduced which enables the localization of tyrosine phosphorylation in gel-separated proteins in the femtomol range. The method utilizes the immonium ion of phosphotyrosine at m/z 216.043 for positive ion mode precursor ion scanning combined with the recently introduced Q2-pulsing function on quadrupole TOF mass spectrometers. The high resolving power of the quadrupole TOF instrument enables the selective detection of phosphotyrosine immonium ions without interference from other peptide fragments of the same nominal mass. Performing precursor ion scans in the positive ion mode facilitates sequencing, because there is a no need for polarity switching or changing pH of the spraying solvent. Similar limits of detection were obtained in this approach when compared to triple-quadrupole mass spectrometers but with significantly better selectivity, owing to the high accuracy of the fragment ion selection. Synthetic phosphopeptides could be detected at 1 fmol/μL, and 100 fmol of a tyrosine phosphorylated protein in gel was sufficient for the detection of the phosphorylated peptide in the unseparated digestion mixture and for unambiguous phosphorylation site determination. The new method can be applied to unknown protein samples, because the identification and localization of the modification is performed on the same sample.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry