Characterization of <i>O</i>-Sulfopeptides by Negative Ion Mode Tandem Mass Spectrometry: Superior Performance of Negative Ion Electron Capture Dissociation

Positive ion mode collision-activated dissociation tandem mass spectrometry (CAD MS/MS) of <i>O</i>-sulfopeptides precludes determination of sulfonated sites due to facile proton-driven loss of the highly labile sulfonate groups. A previously proposed method for localizing peptide and protein <i>O</i>-sulfonation involves derivatization of nonsulfonated tyrosines followed by positive ion CAD MS/MS of the corresponding modified sulfopeptides for diagnostic sulfonate loss. This indirect method relies upon specific and complete derivatization of nonsulfonated tyrosines. Alternative MS/MS activation methods, including positive ion metastable atom-activated dissociation (MAD) and metal-assisted electron transfer dissociation (ETD) or electron capture dissociation (ECD) provide varying degrees of sulfonate retention. Sulfonate retention has also been reported following negative ion MAD and electron detachment dissociation (EDD), which also operates in negative ion mode in which sulfonate groups are less labile than in positive ion mode. However, an MS/MS activation technique that can effectively preserve sulfonate groups while providing extensive backbone fragmentation (translating to sequence information, including sulfonated sites) with little to no noninformative small molecule neutral loss has not previously been realized. Here, we report that negative ion CAD, EDD, and negative ETD (NETD) result in sulfonate retention mainly at higher charge states with varying degrees of fragmentation efficiency and sequence coverage. Similar to previous observations from CAD of sulfonated glycosaminoglycan anions, higher charge states translate to a higher probability of deprotonation at the sulfonate groups thus yielding charge-localized fragmentation without loss of the sulfonate groups. However, consequently, higher sulfonate retention comes at the price of lower sequence coverage in negative ion CAD. Fragmentation efficiency/sequence coverage averaged 19/6% and 33/20% in EDD and NETD, respectively, both of which are only applicable to multiply-charged anions. In contrast, the recently introduced negative ion ECD showed an average fragmentation efficiency of 69% and an average sequence coverage of 82% with complete sulfonate retention from singly- and doubly-deprotonated sulfopeptide anions.