Determination of gas phase protein ion densities via ion mobility analysis with charge reduction

Anne Maißer, Vinay Premnath, Abhimanyu Ghosh, Tuan Anh Nguyen, Michel Attoui, Christopher J. Hogan

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30 Scopus citations


We use a charge reduction electrospray (ESI) source and subsequent ion mobility analysis with a differential mobility analyzer (DMA, with detection via both a Faraday cage electrometer and a condensation particle counter) to infer the densities of single and multiprotein ions of cytochrome C, lysozyme, myoglobin, ovalbumin, and bovine serum albumin produced from non-denaturing (20 mM aqueous ammonium acetate) and denaturing (1:49.5:49.5, formic acid:methanol:water) ESI. Charge reduction is achieved through use of a Po-210 radioactive source, which generates roughly equal concentrations of positive and negative ions. Ions produced by the source collide with and reduce the charge on ESI generated drops, preventing Coulombic fissions, and unlike typical protein ESI, leading to gas-phase protein ions with +1 to +3 excess charges. Therefore, charge reduction serves to effectively mitigate any role that Coulombic stretching may play on the structure of the gas phase ions. Density inference is made via determination of the mobility diameter, and correspondingly the spherical equivalent protein volume. Through this approach it is found that for both non-denaturing and denaturing ESI-generated ions, gas-phase protein ions are relatively compact, with average densities of 0.97 g cm -3 and 0.86 g cm -3, respectively. Ions from non-denaturing ESI are found to be slightly more compact than predicted from the protein crystal structures, suggesting that low charge state protein ions in the gas phase are slightly denser than their solution conformations. While a slight difference is detected between the ions produced with non-denaturing and denaturing ESI, the denatured ions are found to be much more dense than those examined previously by drift tube mobility analysis, in which charge reduction was not employed. This indicates that Coulombic stretching is typically what leads to non-compact ions in the gas-phase, and suggests that for gas phase measurements to be correlated to biomolecular structures in solution, low charge state ions should be analyzed. Further, to determine if different solution conditions give rise to ions of different structure, ions of similar charge state should be compared. Non-denatured protein ion densities are found to be in excellent agreement with non-denatured protein ion densities inferred from prior DMA and drift tube measurements made without charge reduction (all ions with densities in the 0.85-1.10 g cm -3 range), showing that these ions are not strongly influenced by Coulombic stretching nor by analysis method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21630-21641
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 28 2011


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