Dual protease type XIII/pepsin digestion offers superior resolution and overlap for the analysis of histone tails by HX-MS
The N-terminal regions of histone proteins (tails) are dynamic elements that protrude from the nucleosome and are involved in many aspects of chromatin organization. Their epigenetic role is well-established, and post-translational modifications (PTMs) present on these regions contribute to transcriptional regulation. While hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HX-MS) is well-suited for the analysis of dynamic structures, it has seldom been employed to analyze histones due to the poor N-terminal coverage obtained using pepsin. Here, we test the applicability of a dual protease type XIII/pepsin digestion column to this class of proteins. We optimize online digestion conditions using the H4 monomer, and extend the method to the analysis of histones in monomeric states and nucleosome core particles (NCPs). We show that the dual protease column generates many short and overlapping N-terminal peptides. We evaluate our method by performing hydrogen exchange experiments of NCPs for different time points and present full coverage of the tails at excellent resolution. We further employ electron transfer dissociation (ETD) and showcase an unprecedented degree of overlap across multiple peptides that is several fold higher than previously reported methods. The method we report here may be readily applied to the HX-MS investigation of histone dynamics and to the footprints of histone binding proteins on nucleosomes.
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