Investigating macromolecular complexes using top-down mass spectrometry

Proteomics. 2014 May;14(10):1259-70. doi: 10.1002/pmic.201300333. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


MS has emerged as an important tool to investigate noncovalent interactions between proteins and various ligands (e.g. other proteins, small molecules, or drugs). In particular, ESI under so-called "native conditions" (a.k.a. "native MS") has considerably expanded the scope of such investigations. For instance, ESI quadrupole time of flight (Q-TOF) instruments have been used to probe the precise stoichiometry of protein assemblies, the interactions between subunits and the position of subunits within the complex (i.e. defining core and peripheral subunits). This review highlights several illustrative native Q-TOF-based investigations and recent seminal contributions of top-down MS (i.e. Fourier transform (FT) MS) to the characterization of noncovalent complexes. Combined top-down and native MS, recently demonstrated in "high-mass modified" orbitrap mass spectrometers, and further improvements needed for the enhanced investigation of biologically significant noncovalent interactions by MS will be discussed.

Keywords: Intact protein assemblies; Native MS; Noncovalent complexes; Technology; Top-down MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Macromolecular Substances* / analysis
  • Macromolecular Substances* / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Proteins
  • Proteomics / methods*


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Proteins