Chemical cross-linking and mass spectrometry as a low-resolution protein structure determination technique

Anal Chem. 2010 Apr 1;82(7):2636-42. doi: 10.1021/ac1000724.


Protein complexes are the foundation of a majority of cellular processes. Although a large number of protein complexes have been identified through biochemical experiments, the precise molecular details and three-dimensional structures are available for only a small fraction. Chemical cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry (CXMS) has gained popularity in recent years for characterization of inter- and intraprotein interactions in protein complexes. This perspective provides a comprehensive and critical overview of CXMS strategies employed for structural elucidation of protein complexes. We evaluate the challenges associated with CXMS techniques with special emphasis on data analysis. As sensitivity, mass resolution, mass accuracy and ease of use of mass spectrometers have improved, the complexity of processing and interpreting CXMS data has become the central problem to be addressed. We review here a number of computer programs available to address these problems.

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / chemistry*
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Proteins