Distinguishing Sulfotyrosine Containing Peptides from their Phosphotyrosine Counterparts Using Mass Spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2018 Mar;29(3):455-462. doi: 10.1007/s13361-017-1854-1. Epub 2018 Jan 8.


Sulfotyrosine and phosphotyrosine are two post-translational modifications present in higher eukaryotes. A simple and direct mass spectrometry method to distinguish between these modifications is crucial to advance our understanding of the sulfoproteome. While sulfation and phosphorylation are nominally isobaric, the accurate mass of the sulfuryl moiety is 9.6 mDa less than the phosphoryl moiety. Based on this difference, we have used an Orbitrap Fusion Lumos mass spectrometer to characterize, resolve, and distinguish between sulfotyrosine and phosphotyrosine modifications using a set of model peptides. Multiple fragmentation techniques, namely HCD, CID, ETD, ETciD, and EThcD, have been used to compare the different fragmentation behaviors between peptides modified with these species. Sulfotyrosine undergoes neutral loss using HCD and CID, but the sulfuryl moiety is largely stable under ETD. In contrast, phosphotyrosine is stable during fragmentation using all these methods. This differential stability provides a mechanism to distinguish sulfopeptides from phosphopeptides. Based on the rigorous characterization presented herein, this work serves as a model for accurate identification of phosphotyrosine and, more challenging, sulfotyrosine, in complex proteomic samples. Graphical Abstract ᅟ.

Keywords: Nominally isobaric; Phosphotyrosine; Sulfotyrosine; TPST; Tyrosylprotein sulfotransferase.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Humans
  • Peptides / blood
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Phosphotyrosine / analysis*
  • Phosphotyrosine / blood
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Tyrosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tyrosine / analysis
  • Tyrosine / blood


  • Peptides
  • Phosphotyrosine
  • tyrosine O-sulfate
  • Tyrosine