Author(s): Sachon E, Nielsen PF, Jensen ON
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Abstract Acylation is a common post-translational modification found in secreted proteins and membrane-associated proteins, including signal transducing and regulatory proteins. Acylation is also explored in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry to increase the stability and lifetime of protein-based products. The presence of acyl moieties in proteins and peptides affects the physico-chemical properties of these species, thereby modulating protein stability, function, localization and molecular interactions. Characterization of protein acylation is a challenging analytical task, which includes the precise definition of the acylation sites in proteins and determination of the identity and molecular heterogeneity of the acyl moiety at each individual site. In this study, we generated a chemically modified human growth hormone (hGH) by incorporation of a palmitoyl moiety on the N(epsilon) group of a lysine residue. Monoacylation of the hGH protein was confirmed by determination of the intact molecular weight by mass spectrometry. Detailed analysis of protein acylation was achieved by analysis of peptides derived from hGH by protease treatment. However, peptide mass mapping by MALDI MS using trypsin and AspN proteases and standard sample preparation methods did not reveal any palmitoylated peptides. In contrast, in situ liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) performed directly on the MALDI MS metal target enabled detection of acylated peptide candidates by MALDI MS and demonstrated that hGH was N-palmitoylated at multiple lysine residues. MALDI MS and MS/MS analysis of the modified peptides mapped the N-palmitoylation sites to Lys158, Lys172 and Lys140 or Lys145. This study demonstrates the utility of LLE/MALDI MS/MS for mapping and characterization of acylation sites in proteins and peptides and the importance of optimizing sample preparation methods for mass spectrometry-based determination of substoichiometric, multi-site protein modifications.
This article was published in J Mass Spectrom
and referenced in Journal of Glycomics & Lipidomics