In our previous work, we showed that electrospray ionization of intact polyclonal kappa and lambda light chains isolated from normal serum generates two distinct, Gaussian-shaped, molecular mass distributions representing the light-chain repertoire. During the analysis of a large (>100) patient sample set, we noticed a low-intensity molecular mass distribution with a mean of approximately 24 250 Da, roughly 800 Da higher than the mean of the typical kappa molecular-mass distribution mean of 23 450 Da. We also observed distinct clones in this region that did not appear to contain any typical post-translational modifications that would account for such a large mass shift. To determine the origin of the high molecular mass clones, we performed de novo bottom-up mass spectrometry on a purified IgM monoclonal light chain that had a calculated molecular mass of 24 275.03 Da. The entire sequence of the monoclonal light chain was determined using multienzyme digestion and de novo sequence-alignment software and was found to belong to the germline allele IGKV2-30. The alignment of kappa germline sequences revealed ten IGKV2 and one IGKV4 sequences that contained additional amino acids in their CDR1 region, creating the high-molecular-mass phenotype. We also performed an alignment of lambda germline sequences, which showed additional amino acids in the CDR2 region, and the FR3 region of functional germline sequences that result in a high-molecular-mass phenotype. The work presented here illustrates the ability of mass spectrometry to provide information on the diversity of light-chain molecular mass phenotypes in circulation, which reflects the germline sequences selected by the immunoglobulin-secreting B-cell population.
Keywords: de novo; germline gene sequence; immunoglobulin; kappa; lambda; light chain; mass spectrometry; monoclonal; phenotype; variable region.