Mass Spectrometry Methods for Characterising the Dynamic Behaviour of Proteins and Protein Complexes

  • Rebecca Beveridge

Student thesis: Phd


Research into the relationship between the structure and function of proteins has been ongoing now for several decades. More recently, there has been an explosion in the investigation of the dynamic properties of proteins, and how their dynamic propensity relates to their function. This new direction in protein research requires new techniques to analyse protein dynamics, since most traditional techniques are biased towards a fixed tertiary structure. Mass spectrometry (MS) is emerging as a powerful tool to probe protein dynamics since it can provide information on interconverting conformations and has no preference towards the folded state. Furthermore, its low sample consumption, rapid data acquisition and low data processing positions MS as an attractive tool in protein structure research. The hybrid technique of ion mobility-mass spectrometry provides further insight into the range of conformations adopted by proteins and protein complexes, by providing information on the size in terms of rotationally averaged collision cross section. The work presented in this thesis considers proteins with a range of structural characteristics. We use ion mobility mass spectrometry to investigate proteins of different extents of disorder, protein complexes with dynamic entities and a system that undergoes structural rearrangement upon ligand binding.First, a framework of mass spectrometry experiments is described which allows identification of the extent of structure and disorder within proteins. This framework is tested on a range of different systems throughout the thesis. Differences in the gas-phase properties of two conformationally dynamic proteins which behave similarly in solution are investigated and from this research we postulate a new ionisation mechanism for partially folded proteins. The dynamic propensity of C-terminal p27 is investigated and compared to two permutants which allows us to delineate how the location of charged residues in a primary sequence affects the structure of a protein. We monitor the 'folding-upon-binding' behaviour of p27 upon association with its binding partners, and how this differs with the order of charged residues in the linear sequence. Finally, we describe the structural rearrangement of Fdc1 upon the binding of its cofactor; a prenylated FMN molecule.This thesis demonstrates the suitability of ion mobility-mass spectrometry for the investigation of dynamic properties of proteins and protein complexes.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPerdita Barran (Supervisor)


  • mass spectrometry
  • ion mobility
  • intrinsically disordered protein
  • protein complex

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