Site-Specific Characterization of d‑Amino Acid Containing Peptide Epimers by Ion Mobility Spectrometry

Traditionally, the d-amino acid containing peptide (DAACP) candidate can be discovered by observing the differences of biological activity and chromatographic retention time between the synthetic peptides and naturally occurring peptides. However, it is difficult to determine the exact position of d-amino acid in the DAACP candidates. Herein, we developed a novel site-specific strategy to rapidly and precisely localize d-amino acids in peptides by ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) analysis of mass spectrometry (MS)-generated epimeric fragment ions. Briefly, the d/l-peptide epimers were separated by online reversed-phase liquid chromatography and fragmented by collision-induced dissociation (CID), followed by IMS analysis. The epimeric fragment ions resulting from d/l-peptide epimers exhibit conformational differences, thus showing different mobilities in IMS. The arrival time shift between the epimeric fragment ions was used as criteria to localize the d-amino acid substitution. The utility of this strategy was demonstrated by analysis of peptide epimers with different molecular sizes, [d-Trp]-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, [d-Ala]-deltorphin, [d-Phe]-achatin-I, and their counterparts that contain all-l amino acids. Furthermore, the crustacean hyperglycemia hormones (CHHs, 8.5 kDa) were isolated from the American lobster Homarus americanus and identified by integration of MS-based bottom-up and top-down sequencing approaches. The IMS data acquired using our novel site-specific strategy localized the site of isomerization of l- to d-Phe at the third residue of the CHHs from the N-terminus. Collectively, this study demonstrates a new method for discovery of DAACPs using IMS technique with the ability to localize d-amino acid residues.