Addressing mixtures and heterogeneity in structural biology requires approaches that can differentiate and separate structures based on mass and conformation. Mass spectrometry (MS) provides tools for measuring and isolating gas-phase ions. The development of native MS including electrospray ionization allowed for manipulation and analysis of intact noncovalent biomolecules as ions in the gas phase, leading to detailed measurements of structural heterogeneity. Conversely, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) generates detailed images of biomolecular complexes that show an overall structure. Our matrix-landing approach uses native MS to probe and select biomolecular ions of interest for subsequent TEM imaging, thus unifying information on mass, stoichiometry, heterogeneity, etc., available via native MS with TEM images. Here, we prepare TEM grids of protein complexes purified via quadrupolar isolation and matrix-landing and generate 3D reconstructions of the isolated complexes. Our results show that these complexes maintain their structure through gas-phase isolation.
Keywords: ion isolation; native preparative mass spectrometry; protein complex; soft-landing; transmission electron microscopy.