Optimizing proteolytic digestion conditions for the analysis of serum albumin adducts of 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine, a potential human carcinogen formed in cooked meat

Lijuan Peng, Robert J. Turesky

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Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) are carcinogens formed during the cooking of meats or arise in tobacco smoke. The genotoxic N-oxidized metabolites of HAAs bind to Cys residues of proteins to form arylsulfinamide adducts. However, these adducts are unstable and undergo hydrolysis during enzymatic digestion, and thus have been precluded as biomarkers of exposure to HAAs. Arylsulfinamide adducts of HAAs can undergo oxidation to form stable arylsulfonamide linkages, which are chemically stable and amenable for analysis. 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) is a carcinogen present in cooked meat. We established a quantitative MS-based method to measure the sulfinamide adduct of PhIP formed at the cysteine34 (Cys34) residue of human serum albumin (SA), following chemical oxidation of PhIP-modified SA with m-chloroperoxybenzoic acid. Different enzyme systems (trypsin; chymotrypsin; trypsin/chymotrypsin; proteinase K; pronase E; and pronase E/leucine aminopeptidase/prolidase) were evaluated for their proficiency of digestion of SA modified with PhIP. The strongest signal was observed for the L31QQC*PFEDHVK41 peptide, by ultraperformance liquid chromatography and ion trap MS. A limit of quantification value was 0.3fmol of LQQC*PFEDHVK per μg SA, or 2.5 adducts per 105 SA molecules, when assaying 0.75μg of SA. Biological significance: This article describes a mass spectrometric based method to characterize and measure human serum albumin (SA) adducts of 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP), a carcinogenic heterocyclic aromatic amine formed in cooked meats and tobacco smoke. PhIP undergoes metabolic activation to form reactive N-oxidized intermediates that bind to DNA and proteins. N-oxidized PhIP metabolites bind to the Cys34 residue of SA to form a sulfinamide linkage. However, the linkage undergoes hydrolysis during proteolysis, precluding the employment of this adduct as a biomarker in human studies. We have shown that the sulfinamide linkage undergoes oxidation to form the [cysteine-S-yl-PhIP]-S-dioxide, a sulfonamide linked adduct which is stable toward proteolysis. The specificity and efficiency of several different proteases toward the digestion of the SA-Cys34-PhIP adduct were examined. The combination of trypsin and chymotrypsin produced the single-missed cleaved peptide LQQC*PFEDHVK in high yield. Moreover, denaturation and chemical reduction of the internal Cys disulfide bonds of SA were not required for the recovery of LQQC*PFEDHVK. The novel chemistry and proteomic approaches developed in this study may be applied to monitor biologically reactive N-oxidized intermediates of arylamines through their adduction products formed at nucleophilic Cys residues of proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-278
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Proteomics
StatePublished - May 30 2014



  • Biomarkers
  • Food carcinogens
  • Protein adducts

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