A Study into the Collision-induced Dissociation (CID) Behavior of Cross-Linked Peptides.


Cross-linking/mass spectrometry resolves protein-protein interactions or protein folds by help of distance constraints. Cross-linkers with specific properties such as isotope-labeled or collision-induced dissociation (CID)-cleavable cross-linkers are in frequent use to simplify the identification of cross-linked peptides. Here, we analyzed the mass spectrometric behavior of 910 unique cross-linked peptides in high-resolution MS1 and MS2 from published data and validate the observation by a ninefold larger set from currently unpublished data to explore if detailed understanding of their fragmentation behavior would allow computational delivery of information that otherwise would be obtained via isotope labels or CID cleavage of cross-linkers. Isotope-labeled cross-linkers reveal cross-linked and linear fragments in fragmentation spectra. We show that fragment mass and charge alone provide this information, alleviating the need for isotope-labeling for this purpose. Isotope-labeled cross-linkers also indicate cross-linker-containing, albeit not specifically cross-linked, peptides in MS1. We observed that acquisition can be guided to better than twofold enrich cross-linked peptides with minimal losses based on peptide mass and charge alone. By help of CID-cleavable cross-linkers, individual spectra with only linear fragments can be recorded for each peptide in a cross-link. We show that cross-linked fragments of ordinary cross-linked peptides can be linearized computationally and that a simplified subspectrum can be extracted that is enriched in information on one of the two linked peptides. This allows identifying candidates for this peptide in a simplified database search as we propose in a search strategy here. We conclude that the specific behavior of cross-linked peptides in mass spectrometers can be exploited to relax the requirements on cross-linkers.
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