Simplified identification of disulfide, trisulfide, and thioether pairs with 213 nm UVPD
Disulfide heterogeneity and other non-native crosslinks introduced during therapeutic antibody production and storage could have considerable negative effects on clinical efficacy, but tracking these modifications remains challenging. Analysis must also be carried out cautiously to avoid introduction of disulfide scrambling or reduction, necessitating the use of low pH digestion with less specific proteases. Herein we demonstrate that 213 nm ultraviolet photodissociation streamlines disulfide elucidation through bond-selective dissociation of sulfur–sulfur and carbon–sulfur bonds in combination with less specific backbone dissociation. Importantly, both types of fragmentation can be initiated in a single MS/MS activation stage. In addition to disulfide mapping, it is also shown that thioethers and trisulfides can be identified by characteristic fragmentation patterns. The photochemistry resulting from 213 nm excitation facilitates a simplified, two-tiered data processing approach that allows observation of all native disulfide bonds, scrambled disulfide bonds, and non-native sulfur-based linkages in a pepsin digest of Rituximab. Native disulfides represented the majority of bonds according to ion count, but the highly solvent-exposed heavy/light interchain disulfides were found to be most prone to modification. Production and storage methods that facilitate non-native links are discussed. Due to the importance of heavy and light chain connectivity for antibody structure and function, this region likely requires particular attention in terms of its influence on maintaining structural fidelity.