Trypsin cleaves exclusively C-terminal to arginine and lysine residues

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2004 Jun;3(6):608-14. doi: 10.1074/mcp.T400003-MCP200. Epub 2004 Mar 19.


Almost all large-scale projects in mass spectrometry-based proteomics use trypsin to convert protein mixtures into more readily analyzable peptide populations. When searching peptide fragmentation spectra against sequence databases, potentially matching peptide sequences can be required to conform to tryptic specificity, namely, cleavage exclusively C-terminal to arginine or lysine. In many published reports, however, significant numbers of proteins are identified by non-tryptic peptides. Here we use the sub-parts per million mass accuracy of a new ion trap Fourier transform mass spectrometer to achieve more than a 100-fold increased confidence in peptide identification compared with typical ion trap experiments and show that trypsin cleaves solely C-terminal to arginine and lysine. We find that non-tryptic peptides occur only as the C-terminal peptides of proteins and as breakup products of fully tryptic peptides N-terminal to an internal proline. Simulating lower mass accuracy led to a large number of proteins erroneously identified with non-tryptic peptide hits. Our results indicate that such peptide hits in previous studies should be re-examined and that peptide identification should be based on strict trypsin specificity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Lysine / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mice
  • Peptide Fragments / analysis*
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Peptide Mapping
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Trypsin / pharmacology*


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Arginine
  • Trypsin
  • Lysine