Tandem mass spectrometry approaches to characterizing challenging biomolecules : stapled and cyclic peptides and variants of lipid A from gram-negative bacteria
Mass spectrometry has emerged as a leading tool in the field of chemistry as an analytical method for the characterization of small molecules, proteins, and other complex biomolecules. Specifically, cyclic and stapled peptides have become an intriguing class of biomolecules in drug research afforded to them because of their biological stability and resistance to proteolytic digestions. However, challenges are presented in regards to the characterization of these molecules as traditional methods are ineffective in determining a ring-opening site on the peptidic backbone. Additionally, lipid A, the hydrophobic domain of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), consists of a diglucosamine backbone and is responsible for fastening LPS to a membrane surface. Lipid A becomes a biologically relevant molecule to study as its function within LPS is directly related to the infectious and toxic properties of gram-negative bacteria, but the molecule is structurally complex and offers many challenges in terms of traditional mass spectrometry characterization. Presented in the thesis are methods to further comprehend structural motifs related to the aforementioned biomolecules. The “ornithine effect”, which describes the conversion of an arginine residue to an ornithine residue via reaction with hydrazine and subsequent preferential cyclization via nucleophilic attack of the ornithine side-chain to the neighboring carbonyl group, inducing heterolytic cleavage of the adjacent amide bond under gentle activation, is used to preferentially open cyclic and stapled rings to linearize these challenging biomolecules. Ramped collisional and photon based activation (in terms of energy and laser pulses) of lipid A molecules that contain differences in acyl-chain length and connectivity reveal general trends about the lability of certain bonds on the lipid A molecules themselves and paints a picture of the overall fragmentation trends associated with variations in lipid A structural motifs.