Targeting the hydrophilic regions of recombinant proteins by MS via in-solution buffer-free trypsin digestion

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter


A desalting step using reversed phase chromatography is a common practice prior to mass spectrometry analysis of proteolytic digests in spite of the detrimental exclusion of the hydrophilic peptides. The detection of such peptides is also important for the complete coverage of protein sequences and the analysis of posttranslational modifications as inquired by regulatory agencies for the commercialization of biotechnological products. The procedure described here, named in-solution buffer-free digestion, simplifies the sample processing and circumvents the above-mentioned limitations by allowing the detection of tryptic hydrophilic peptides via direct ESI-MS analysis. Two DNA recombinant proteins such as HBcAg (hepatitis B core antigen) and fusion VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) were analyzed with the proposed in-solution buffer-free digestion allowing the detection of extremely hydrophilic di-, tri- and tetra-peptides, C-terminal His-tail peptide, as well as disulfide-containing peptides. All these molecular species are hardly seen in mass spectrometric analysis using a standard digestion that includes a C18-desalting step. The procedure was also successfully tried on hydrophilic tetra- and hexa-peptides of Ribonuclease B carrying an N-glycosylation site occupied with “high-mannose” N-glycan chains. The in-solution buffer-free digestion constitutes a simple and straightforward approach to analyse the hydrophilic proteolytic peptides which are commonly elusive to the detection by conventional mass spectrometric analysis.


External organisations
  • Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Medical Laboratory and Measurements Technologies


  • buffer-free, digestion, HBcAg, Hydrophilic, mass spectrometry, peptides, RNase B, sequence coverage, vascular endothelial growth factor
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-237
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Mass Spectrometry
Issue number3
Early online date2019 Dec 10
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 1
Publication categoryResearch