High-throughput top-down proteomic experiments directly identify proteoforms in complex mixtures, making high quality tandem mass spectra necessary to deeply characterize proteins with many sources of variation. Collision-based dissociation methods offer expedient data acquisition but often fail to extensively fragment proteoforms for thorough analysis. Electron-driven dissociation methods are a popular alternative approach, especially for precursor ions with high charge density. Combining infrared photoactivation concurrent with electron transfer dissociation (ETD) reactions, i.e., activated ion ETD (AI-ETD), can significantly improve ETD characterization of intact proteins, but benefits of AI-ETD have yet to be quantified in high-throughput top-down proteomics. Here, we report the first application of AI-ETD to LC-MS/MS characterization of intact proteins (<20 kDa), highlighting improved proteoform identification the method offers over higher energy-collisional dissociation (HCD), standard ETD, and ETD followed by supplemental HCD activation (EThcD). We identified 935 proteoforms from 295 proteins from human colorectal cancer cell line HCT116 using AI-ETD compared to 1014 proteoforms, 915 proteoforms, and 871 proteoforms with HCD, ETD, and EThcD, respectively. Importantly, AI-ETD outperformed each of the three other methods in MS/MS success rates and spectral quality metrics (e.g., sequence coverage achieved and proteoform characterization scores). In all, this four-method analysis offers the most extensive comparisons to date and demonstrates that AI-ETD both increases identifications over other ETD methods and improves proteoform characterization via higher sequence coverage, positioning it as a premier method for high-throughput top-down proteomics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry