On-line strong cation exchange micro-HPLC-ESI-MS/MS for protein identification and process optimization

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2003 Jul;14(7):719-27. doi: 10.1016/s1044-0305(03)00208-3.


We have developed an on-line strong cation exchange (SCX)-ESI-MS/MS platform for the rapid identification of proteins contained in mixtures. This platform consists of a SCX precolumn followed by a nanoflow SCX column on-line with an electrospray ion trap mass spectrometer. We also used this platform to study the dynamics of peptide separation/extraction by SCX, in particular to understand the parameters affecting the performance of SCX in multidimensional chromatography. For example, we have demonstrated that the buffer typically used for tryptic digestion of protein mixtures can have a detrimental effect on the chromatographic behaviour of peptides during SCX separations, thereby affecting certain peptide quantitation approaches that rely on reproducible peptide fractionation. We have also demonstrated that band broadening results when a step (discontinuous) gradient approach is used to displace peptides from the SCX precolumn, reducing the separation power of SCX in multidimensional chromatography. In contrast, excellent chromatographic peak shapes are observed when a defined (continuous) gradient is used. Finally, using a tryptic digest of a protein extract derived from human K562 cells, we observed that larger molecular weight peptides are identified using this on-line SCX approach compared to the more conventional reverse phase (RP) LC/MS approach. Both methods used in tandem complement each other and can lead to a greater number of peptide identifications from a given sample.

MeSH terms

  • Cations / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Humans
  • Isoelectric Point
  • K562 Cells
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Time Factors


  • Cations
  • Proteins