J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2017 Aug 10 Epub ahead of print

Amino Acid Insertion Frequencies Arising from Photoproducts Generated Using Aliphatic Diazirines

Mapping proteins with chemical reagents and mass spectrometry can generate a measure of accessible surface area, which in turn can be used to support the modeling and refinement of protein structures. Photolytically generated carbenes are a promising class of reagent for this purpose. Substituent effects appear to influence surface mapping properties, allowing for a useful measure of design control. However, to use carbene labeling data in a quantitative manner for modeling activities, we require a better understanding of their inherent amino acid reactivity, so that incorporation data can be normalized. The current study presents an analysis of the amino acid insertion frequency of aliphatic carbenes generated by the photolysis of three different diazirines: 3,3'-azibutyl-1-ammonium, 3,3'-azibutan-1-ol, and 4,4'-azipentan-1-oate. Leveraging an improved photolysis system for single-shot labeling of sub-microliter frozen samples, we used EThCD to localize insertion products in a large population of labeled peptides. Counting statistics were drawn from data-dependent LC-MS2 experiments and used to estimate the frequencies of insertion as a function of amino acid. We observed labeling of all 20 amino acids over a remarkably narrow range of insertion frequencies. However, the nature of the substituent could influence relative insertion frequencies, within a general preference for larger polar amino acids. We confirm a large (6-fold) increase in labeling yield when carbenes were photogenerated in the solid phase (77 K) relative to the liquid phase (293 K), and we suggest that carbene labeling should always be conducted in the frozen state to avoid information loss in surface mapping experiments.