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Protein isoaspartate methyltransferase-mediated 18O-labeling of isoaspartic acid for mass spectrometry analysis.


Arising from spontaneous aspartic acid (Asp) isomerization or asparagine (Asn) deamidation, isoaspartic acid (isoAsp, isoD, or beta-Asp) is a ubiquitous nonenzymatic modification of proteins and peptides. Because there is no mass difference between isoaspartyl and aspartyl species, sensitive and specific detection of isoAsp, particularly in complex samples, remains challenging. Here we report a novel assay for Asp isomerization by isotopic labeling with (18)O via a two-step process: the isoAsp peptide is first specifically methylated by protein isoaspartate methyltransferase (PIMT, EC to the corresponding methyl ester, which is subsequently hydrolyzed in (18)O-water to regenerate isoAsp. The specific replacement of (16)O with (18)O at isoAsp leads to a mass shift of 2 Da, which can be automatically and unambiguously recognized using standard mass spectrometry, such as collision-induced dissociation (CID), and data analysis algorithms. Detection and site identification of several isoAsp peptides in a monoclonal antibody and the β-delta sleep-inducing peptide (DSIP) are demonstrated.