Microdroplet ultrafast reactions speed antibody characterization

Harsha P. Gunawardena, Richard N. Zare, Hao Chen, Pengyi Zhao, Xiaoqin Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Recently, microdroplet reactions have aroused much interest because the microdroplet provides a unique medium where organic reactions could be accelerated by a factor of 103 or more. However, microdroplet reactions of proteins have been rarely studied. We report the occurrence of multiple-step reactions of a large protein, specifically, the digestion, reduction, and deglycosylation of an intact antibody, which can take place in microseconds with high reaction yields in aqueous microdroplets at room temperature. As a result, fast structural characterization of a monoclonal antibody, essential for assessing its quality as a therapeutic drug, can be enabled. We found that the IgG1 antibody can be digested completely by the IdeS protease in aqueous microdroplets in 250 microseconds, a 7.5 million-fold improvement in speed in comparison to traditional digestion in bulk solution (>30 min). Strikingly, inclusion of the reductant tris(2-carboxyethyl)phosphine in the spray solution caused simultaneous antibody digestion and disulfide bond reduction. Digested and reduced antibody fragments were either collected or analyzed online by mass spectrometry. Further addition of PNGase F glycosylase into the spray solution led to antibody deglycosylation, thereby producing reduced and deglycosylated fragments of analytical importance. In addition, glycated fragments of IgG1 derived from glucose modification were identified rapidly with this ultrafast digestion/reduction technique. We suggest that microdroplets can serve as powerful microreactors for both exploring large-molecule reactions and speeding their structural analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3997-4005
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Mar 2 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry


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