Native mass spectrometry (MS) with electrospray ionization (ESI) has evolved as an invaluable tool for the characterization of intact native proteins and non-covalently bound protein complexes. Here we report the structural characterization by high resolution native top-down MS of human thrombin and its complex with the Bock thrombin binding aptamer (TBA), a 15-nucleotide DNA with high specificity and affinity for thrombin. Accurate mass measurements revealed that the predominant form of native human α-thrombin contains a glycosylation mass of 2205 Da, corresponding to a sialylated symmetric biantennary oligosaccharide structure without fucosylation. Native MS showed that thrombin and TBA predominantly form a 1:1 complex under near physiological conditions (pH 6.8, 200 mM NH4OAc), but the binding stoichiometry is influenced by the solution ionic strength. In 20 mM ammonium acetate solution, up to two TBAs were bound to thrombin, whereas increasing the solution ionic strength destabilized the thrombin–TBA complex and 1 M NH4OAc nearly completely dissociated the complex. This observation is consistent with the mediation of thrombin-aptamer binding through electrostatic interactions and it is further consistent with the human thrombin structure that contains two anion binding sites on the surface. Electron capture dissociation (ECD) top-down MS of the thrombin–TBA complex performed with a high resolution 15 Tesla Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometer showed the primary binding site to be at exosite I located near the N-terminal sequence of the heavy chain, consistent with crystallographic data. High resolution native top-down MS is complementary to traditional structural biology methods for structurally characterizing native proteins and protein–DNA complexes.
Journal of The American Society for Mass Spectrometry – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 28, 2017
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