Radiolytic protein footprinting with mass spectrometry to probe the structure of macromolecular complexes

Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct. 2006;35:251-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biophys.35.040405.102050.


Structural proteomics approaches using mass spectrometry are increasingly used in biology to examine the composition and structure of macromolecules. Hydroxyl radical-mediated protein footprinting using mass spectrometry has recently been developed to define structure, assembly, and conformational changes of macromolecules in solution based on measurements of reactivity of amino acid side chain groups with covalent modification reagents. Accurate measurements of side chain reactivity are achieved using quantitative liquid-chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry, whereas the side chain modification sites are identified using tandem mass spectrometry. In addition, the use of footprinting data in conjunction with computational modeling approaches is a powerful new method for testing and refining structural models of macromolecules and their complexes. In this review, we discuss the basic chemistry of hydroxyl radical reactions with peptides and proteins, highlight various approaches to map protein structure using radical oxidation methods, and describe state-of-the-art approaches to combine computational and footprinting data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hydroxyl Radical / analysis
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Molecular Probe Techniques
  • Multiprotein Complexes / analysis
  • Multiprotein Complexes / chemistry
  • Multiprotein Complexes / ultrastructure
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Footprinting / methods*
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / ultrastructure*
  • Pulse Radiolysis / methods*


  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Proteins
  • Hydroxyl Radical