Probing ligand and cation binding sites in G-quadruplex nucleic acids by mass spectrometry and electron photodetachment dissociation sequencing
Mass spectrometry provides exquisite details on ligand and cation binding stoichiometries with a DNA target. The next important step is to develop reliable methods to determine the cation and ligand binding sites in each complex separated by using a mass spectrometer. To circumvent the caveat of ligand derivatization for cross-linking, which may alter the ligand binding mode, we explored a tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) method that does not require ligand derivatization, and is therefore also applicable to localize metal cations. By putting more negative charge states on the complexes using supercharging agents, and by creating radical ions by electron photodetachment, oligonucleotide bonds become weaker than the DNA–cation or DNA–ligand noncovalent bonds upon collision-induced dissociation of the radicals. This electron photodetachment (EPD) method allows one to locate the binding regions of cations and ligands by top-down sequencing of the oligonucleotide target. The very potent G-quadruplex ligands 360A and PhenDC3 were found to replace a potassium cation and bind close to the central loop of 4-repeat human telomeric sequences.