Modification of citrulline residues with 2,3-butanedione facilitates their detection by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2011 Jun 15;25(11):1536-42. doi: 10.1002/rcm.5015.


Citrullination is a post-translational modification (PTM) that results from the deimination of the amino acid arginine into citrulline by Peptidyl Arginine Deiminase enzymes and occurs in a wide range of proteins in health and disease. This modification causes a 1 Da mass shift, which can be used to identify citrullination sites in proteins by the use of mass spectrometry. However, other PTMs, such as deamidation from asparagine to aspartic acid or from glutamine to glutamic acid, can also cause a 1 Da mass shift, making correct interpretation of the data more difficult. We developed a chemical tagging strategy which, combined with an open source search application, allowed us to selectively pinpoint citrullinated peptides in a complex mixture after liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) analysis. After incubation of a peptide mixture with 2,3 butanedione, citrulline residues were covalently modified which resulted in a 50 Da shift in singly charged mass. By comparison of the peptide mass fingerprint from a modified and an unmodified version of the same sample, our in-house search application was able to identify the citrullinated peptides in the mixture. This strategy was optimized on synthetic peptides and validated on a digest of in vitro citrullinated fibrinogen, where different proteolytic enzymes were used to augment the protein coverage. This new method results in easy detection of citrullinated residues, without the need for complex mass spectrometry equipment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Citrulline / analysis
  • Citrulline / chemistry*
  • Citrulline / metabolism
  • Diacetyl / analysis
  • Diacetyl / chemistry*
  • Diacetyl / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Molecular Probe Techniques
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Proteins
  • Citrulline
  • Diacetyl