Analytical Chemistry

Cold Denaturation of Proteins in the Absence of Solvent



The effect of temperature on the stability of proteins is well explored for high temperatures, but harder to track below the freezing point of water. This challenge is met with the use of variable temperature ion mobility mass spectrometry (VT IM-MS), which allows the structure of isolated, solvent free molecules to be measured at sub ambient temperatures in the form of their collision cross section (CCS). Here we monitor conformational changes that occur to two isotypes of monoclonal antibodies over a temperature range from 295 to 165 K. For each we observe a large increase in the magnitude of the CCS at 250K (-20 °C) substantially above that predicted. This loss of structure in the absence of bulk solvent is attributed to a change in the strength of stabilizing intermolecular interactions, causing rearrangement. At 190 K (-80 °C) the CCS distribution narrows which we attribute to better resolution. These findings indicate that in vacuo deep-freezing minimizes denaturation and maintains the gas phase native fold supporting this practice in vitro. Comparing the data for each isotype suggests that the disulfide bridging influences thermal structural rearrangement and taken together we show that this method provides unique insights to the phenomenon of cold denaturation.


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Supplementary material

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Supplementary data
Data in support of the main manuscript
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This is the revised manuscript as requested with grant numbers included.