Subresidue-Resolution Footprinting of Ligand–Protein Interactions by Carbene Chemistry and Ion Mobility–Mass Spectrometry

Published in Analytical Chemistry, 2020

Gaoyuan Lu, Xiaowei Xu, Gongyu Li, Huiyong Sun, Nian Wang, Yinxue Zhu, Ning Wan, Yatao Shi, Guangji Wang, Lingjun Li, Haiping Hao* and Hui Ye*

Abstract: The knowledge of ligand–protein interactions is essential for understanding fundamental biological processes and for the rational design of drugs that target such processes. Carbene footprinting efficiently labels proteinaceous residues and has been used with mass spectrometry (MS) to map ligand–protein interactions. Nevertheless, previous footprinting studies are typically performed at the residue level, and therefore, the resolution may not be high enough to couple with conventional crystallography techniques. Herein we developed a subresidue footprinting strategy based on the discovery that carbene labeling produces subresidue peptide isomers and the intensity changes of these isomers in response to ligand binding can be exploited to delineate ligand–protein topography at the subresidue level. The established workflow combines carbene footprinting, extended liquid chromatographic separation, and ion mobility (IM)–MS for efficient separation and identification of subresidue isomers. Analysis of representative subresidue isomers located within the binding cleft of lysozyme and those produced from an amyloid-β segment have both uncovered structural information heretofore unavailable by residue-level footprinting. Lastly, a “real-world” application shows that the reactivity changes of subresidue isomers at Phe399 can identify the interactive nuances between estrogen-related receptor α, a potential drug target for cancer and metabolic diseases, with its three ligands. These findings have significant implications for drug design. Taken together, we envision the subresidue-level resolution enabled by IM–MS-coupled carbene footprinting can bridge the gap between structural MS and the more-established biophysical tools and ultimately facilitate diverse applications for fundamental research and pharmaceutical development.