Identification of Cross-linked Peptides Using Isotopomeric Cross-linkers.

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Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry


Chemical cross-linking combined with mass spectrometry (CL-MS) is a powerful method for characterizing the architecture of protein assemblies and for mapping protein-protein interactions. Despite its proven utility, confident identification of cross-linked peptides remains a formidable challenge, especially when the peptides are derived from complex mixtures. MS cleavable cross-linkers are gaining importance for CL-MS as they permit reliable identification of cross-linked peptides by whole proteome database searching using MS/MS information. Here we introduce a novel class of MS cleavable cross-linkers called isotopomeric cross-linkers (ICLs), which allow for confident and efficient identification of cross-linked peptides by whole proteome database searching. ICLs are simple, symmetrical molecules that asymmetrically incorporate heavy and light stable isotopes into the two arms of the cross-linker. As a result of this property, ICLs automatically generate pairs of isotopomeric cross-linked peptides, which differ only by the positions of the heavy and light isotopes. Upon fragmentation during MS analysis, these isotopomeric cross-linked peptides generate unique isotopic doublet ions that correspond to the individual peptides in the cross-link. The doublet ion information is used to determine the masses of the two cross-linked peptides from the same MS2 spectrum that is also used for peptide spectrum matching (PSM) by sequence database searching. Here we present the rationale for and mechanism of cross-linked peptide identification by ICL-MS. We describe the synthesis of the ICL-1 reagent, the ICL-MS workflow, and the performance characteristics of ICL-MS for identifying cross-linked peptides derived from increasingly complex mixtures by whole proteome database searching.


Institute for Systems Biology