Detection and characterization of low abundance glycopeptides via higher-energy C-trap dissociation and Orbitrap mass analysis

Gene Hart-Smith*, Mark J. Raftery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Broad-scale mass spectrometric analyses of glycopeptides are constrained by the considerable complexity inherent to glycoproteomics, and techniques are still being actively developed to address the associated analytical difficulties. Here we apply Orbitrap mass analysis and higher-energy C-trap dissociation (HCD) to facilitate detailed insights into the compositions and heterogeneity of complex mixtures of low abundance glycopeptides. By generating diagnostic oxonium product ions at mass measurement errors of <5 ppm, highly selective glycopeptide precursor ion detections are made at sub-fmol limits of detection: analyses of proteolytic digests of a hen egg glycoprotein mixture detect 88 previously uncharacterized glycopeptides from 666 precursor ions selected for MS/MS, with only one false positive due to co-fragmentation of a non-glycosylated peptide with a glycopeptide. We also demonstrate that by (1) identifying multiple series of glycoforms using high mass accuracy single stage MS spectra, and (2) performing product ion scans at optimized HCD collision energies, the identification of peptide+N-acetylhexosamine (HexNAc) ions (Y1 ions) can be readily achieved at <5 ppm mass measurement errors. These data allow base peptide sequences and glycan compositional information to be attained with high confidence, even for glycopeptides that produce weak precursor ion signals and/or low quality MS/MS spectra. The glycopeptides characterized from low fmol abundances using these methods allow two previously unreported glycosylation sites on the Gallus gallus protein ovoglycoprotein (amino acids 82 and 90) to be confirmed; considerable glycan heterogeneities at amino acid 90 of ovoglycoprotein, and amino acids 34 and 77 of Gallus gallus ovomucoid are also revealed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-140
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • glycopeptides
  • glycoproteomics
  • mass spectrometry
  • Orbitrap
  • higher-energy C-trap dissociation


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