Understanding protein tertiary and quaternary structures is crucial to a better understanding of their biological functions. Here we illustrate for tryptophan synthase that tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) reveals not only protein subunit architectures, but also protein unfolding behavior when coupled with ion mobility (IM). In the present study, we verified the subunit arrangement with surface induced dissociation (SID). We are able to correlate experimental results by IM with those obtained in unfolding simulations for the hetero-tetramer Tryptophan Synthase (TS) protein complex by identifying the presence of at least three stable intermediates (I1, I2, and I3) during the unfolding process in collision induced dissociation (CID). We illustrate that the unfolding of the TS complex is likely due to the initial unfolding of an α-monomer subunit, followed by the unfolding of the second α-monomers. We also illustrate the ability of this combination of techniques to not only identify conformational changes of TS upon addition of D,L-α-glycerol phosphate (GP), but also to determine the location of the ligand, which is buried within the α-monomer of the TS.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_finke/9/