Rapid 3-dimensional shape determination of globular proteins by mobility capillary electrophoresis and native mass spectrometry†
Established high-throughput proteomics methods provide limited information on the stereostructures of proteins. Traditional technologies for protein structure determination typically require laborious steps and cannot be performed in a high-throughput fashion. Here, we report a new medium throughput method by combining mobility capillary electrophoresis (MCE) and native mass spectrometry (MS) for the 3-dimensional (3D) shape determination of globular proteins in the liquid phase, which provides both the geometric structure and molecular mass information of proteins. A theory was established to correlate the ion hydrodynamic radius and charge state distribution in the native mass spectrum with protein geometrical parameters, through which a low-resolution structure (shape) of the protein could be determined. Our test data of 11 different globular proteins showed that this approach allows us to determine the shapes of individual proteins, protein complexes and proteins in a mixture, and to monitor protein conformational changes. Besides providing complementary protein structure information and having mixture analysis capability, this MCE and native MS based method is fast in speed and low in sample consumption, making it potentially applicable in top–down proteomics and structural biology for intact globular protein or protein complex analysis.