Online mass spectrometric analysis of proteins/peptides following electrolytic cleavage of disulfide bonds

Yun Zhang, Howard D. Dewald, Hao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


The disulfide bond bridge is an important post-translational modification for proteins. This study presents a structural analysis of biologically active peptides and proteins containing disulfide bonds using electrochemistry (EC) online combined with desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI-MS), in which the sample undergoes electrolytic disulfide cleavage in an electrochemical flow cell followed by MS detection. Using this EC/DESI-MS method, the disulfide-containing peptides can be quickly identified from enzymatic digestion mixtures, simply based on the abrupt decrease in their relative ion abundances after electrolysis. Peptide mass mapping and tandem MS analysis of the ions of the resulting free peptide chains can possibly establish the disulfide linkage pattern and sequence the precursor peptides. In this regard, the method provides much more chemical information than previous analogous electrochemical analyses. In addition, derivatization of thiols by selective selenamide reagents is useful for easy recognition of reduced peptide ions and the number of their free thiols. Furthermore, electrolytic reduction of proteins (e.g., α-lactalbumin) leads to increased charges on the detected protein ions, revealing the role of disulfide bonds on maintaining protein conformation. This electrochemical mass spectrometric method is fast (completed in few minutes) and does not need chemical reductants, potentially having valuable applications in proteomics research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1304
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 4 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry


  • desorption electrospray ionization
  • disulfide bond reduction
  • electrochemistry
  • mass spectrometry
  • protein conformation


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