October 26, 2018
Top-down sequencing in proteomics has come of age owing to continuous progress in LC-MS. With their high resolution and broad mass range, Quadrupole Time-of-Flight (Q-ToF) hybrid mass spectrometers equipped with electrospray ionisation source and tandem MS capability by collision-induced dissociation (CID) can be employed to analyse intact proteins and retrieve primary sequence information. To our knowledge, top-down proteomics methods with Q-ToF have only been evaluated using samples of relatively low complexity. Furthermore, the in-source CID (IS-CID) capability of Q-ToF instruments has been under-utilised. This study aimed at optimising top-down sequencing of intact milk proteins to achieve the greatest sequence coverage possible from samples of increasing complexity, assessed using nine known proteins. Eleven MS/MS methods varying in their IS-CID and conventional CID parameters were tested on individual and mixed protein standards as well as raw milk samples. Top-down sequencing results from the nine most abundant proteoforms of caseins, alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglubulins were compared. Nine MS/MS methods achieved more than 70% sequence coverage overall to distinguish between allelic proteoforms, varying only by one or two amino acids. The optimal methods utilised IS-CID at low energy. This experiment demonstrates the utility of Q-ToF systems for top-down proteomics and that IS-CID could be more frequently employed.