Protein quaternary structure determination using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry and chemical crosslinking

Terry Beck Farmer, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


A means of analyzing protein quaternary structure using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI MS) and chemical crosslinking was evaluated. Proteins of known oligomeric structure, as well as monomeric proteins, were analyzed to evaluate the method. The quaternary structure of proteins of unknown or uncertain structure was investigated using this technique. The stoichiometry of recombinant E. coli carbamoyl phosphate synthetase and recombinant human farnesyl protein transferase were determined to be heterodimers using glutaraldehyde crosslinking, agreeing with the stoichiometry found for the wild type proteins. The stoichiometry of the gamma subunit of E. coli DNA polymerase III holoenzyme was determined in solution without the presence of other subunits to be a homotetramer using glutaraldehyde crosslinking and MALDI MS analysis. Chi and psi subunits of E. coli DNA polymerase III subunits appeared to form a heterodimer when crosslinked with heterobifunctional photoreactive crosslinkers. Comparison of relative % peak areas obtained from MALDI MS analysis of crosslinked proteins and densitometric scanning of silver stained sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) gels showed excellent qualitative agreement for the two techniques, but the quantitative analyses differed, sometimes significantly. This difference in quantitation could be due to SDS-PAGE conditions (differential staining, loss of sample) or to MALDI MS conditions (differences in ionization and/or detection). Investigation of pre-purified crosslinked monomers and dimers recombined in a specific ratio revealed the presence of mass discrimination in the MALDI MS process. The calculation of mass discrimination for two different MALDI time-of-flight instruments showed the loss of a factor of approximately 2.6 in relative peak area as the m/z value doubles over the m/z range from 30,000 to 145,000 daltons. Indirect symmetry was determined for tetramers using glutaraldehyde crosslinking with MALDI MS analysis. Mathematical modelling and simple graphing allowed the determination of the symmetry for several tetramers known to possess isologous D2 symmetry. These methods also distinguished tetramers that did not fit D2 symmetry such as apo-avidin. The gamma tetramer of E. coli DNA polymerase III appears to have isologous D2 symmetry.

Subject Area

Biochemistry|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Farmer, Terry Beck, "Protein quaternary structure determination using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry and chemical crosslinking" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9626088.