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Analytical chemistry





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H/D exchange (HDX) mass spectrometry (MS) is a widely used technique for interrogating protein structure and dynamics. Backbone HDX is mediated by opening/closing (unfolding/refolding) fluctuations. In traditional HDX-MS, proteins are incubated in D2O as a function of time at constant temperature (T). There is an urgent need to complement this traditional approach with experiments that probe proteins in a T-dependent fashion, e.g., for assessing the stability of therapeutic antibodies. A key problem with such studies is the absence of strategies for interpreting HDX-MS data in the context of T-dependent protein dynamics. Specifically, it has not been possible thus far to separate T-induced changes of the chemical labeling step (kch) from thermally enhanced protein fluctuations. Focusing on myoglobin, the current work solves this problem by dissecting T-dependent HDX-MS profiles into contributions from kch(T), as well as local and global protein dynamics. Experimental profiles started off with surprisingly shallow slopes that seemed to defy the quasi-exponential kch(T) dependence. Just below the melting temperature (Tm) the profiles showed a sharp increase. Our analysis revealed that local dynamics dominate at low T, while global events become prevalent closer to Tm. About half of the backbone NH sites exhibited a canonical scenario, where local opening/closing was associated with positive ΔH and ΔS. Many of the remaining sites had negative ΔH and ΔS, thereby accounting for the shallowness of the experimental HDX-MS profiles at low T. In summary, this work provides practitioners with the tools to analyze proteins over a wide temperature range, paving the way toward T-dependent high-throughput screening applications by HDX-MS.

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