Analytical biochemistry

Isotope-coded, iodoacetamide-based reagent to determine individual cysteine pK(a) values by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

PMID 18162165


Cysteine reactivity in enzymes is imparted to a large extent by the stabilization of the deprotonated form of the reduced cysteine (i.e., the thiolate) within the active site. Although this is likely to be an important chemical attribute of many thiol-based enzymes, including cysteine-dependent peroxidases (peroxiredoxins) and proteases, only relatively few pK(a) values have been determined experimentally. Presented here is a new technique for determining the pK(a) value of cysteine residues through quantitative mass spectrometry following chemical modification with an iodoacetamide-based reagent over a range of pH buffers. This isotope-coded reagent, N-phenyl iodoacetamide (iodoacetanilide), is readily prepared in deuterated (d(5)) and protiated (d(0)) versions and is more reactive toward free cysteine than is iodoacetamide. Using this approach, the pK(a) values for the two cysteine residues in Escherichia coli thioredoxin were determined to be 6.5 and greater than 10.0, in good agreement with previous reports using chemical modification approaches. This technique allows the pK(a) of specific cysteine residues to be determined in a clear, fast, and simple manner and, because cysteine residues on separate tryptic peptides are measured separately, is not complicated by the presence of multiple cysteines within the protein of interest.