Protein post-translational modifications (PTMs) enable cells to rapidly change in response to biological stimuli. With hundreds of different PTMs, understanding these control mechanisms is complex. To date, efforts have focused on investigating the effect of a single PTM on protein function. Yet, many proteins contain multiple PTMs. Moreover, one PTM can alter the prevalence of another, a phenomenon termed PTM crosstalk. Understanding PTM crosstalk is critical; however, its detection is challenging since PTMs occur substoichiometrically. Here, we develop an enrichment-free, label-free proteomics method that utilizes high-field asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) to enhance the detection of PTM crosstalk. We show that by searching for multiple combinations of dynamic PTMs on peptide sequences, a 6-fold increase in candidate PTM crosstalk sites is identified compared with that of standard liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) workflows. Additionally, by cycling through FAIMS compensation voltages within a single LC-FAIMS-MS/MS run, we show that our LC-FAIMS-MS/MS workflow can increase multi-PTM-containing peptide identifications without additional increases in run times. With 159 novel candidate crosstalk sites identified, we envisage LC-FAIMS-MS/MS to play an important role in expanding the repertoire of multi-PTM identifications. Moreover, it is only by detecting PTM crosstalk that we can "see" the full picture of how proteins are regulated.
- post-translational modifications
- mass spectrometry