Here, we introduce carbocations (R3C+) as laser-initiated footprinting reagents for proteins. We screened seven candidates and selected trifluomethoxy benzyl bromide (TFBB) as an effective precursor for the electrophilic trifluomethoxy benzyl carbocation (TFB+) under laser (248 nm) irradiation on the fast photochemical oxidation of proteins (FPOP) platform. Initial results demonstrate that this electrophilic cation reagent affords residue coverage of nucleophilic amino acids including H, W, M, and S. Further, the addition of TFB+increases the hydrophobicity of the peptides so that separation of isomeric peptide products by reversed-phase LC is improved, suggesting opportunities for subresidue footprinting. Comparison of apo- and holo-myoglobin footprints shows that the TFB+footprinting is sensitive to protein conformational change and solvent accessibility. Interestingly, because the TFB+is amphiphilic, the reagent can potentially footprint membrane proteins as demonstrated for vitamin K epoxide reductase (VKOR) stabilized in a micelle. Not only does footprinting of the extra-membrane domain occur, but also some footprinting of the hydrophobic transmembrane domain is achieved owing to the interaction of TFB+with the micelle. Carbocation precursors are stable and amenable for tailoring their properties and those of the incipient carbocation, enabling targeting their soluble or membrane-associated or embedded regions and distinguishing between the extra- and trans-membrane domains of membrane proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13101-13105
Number of pages5
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number39
StatePublished - Oct 5 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Carbocation Footprinting of Soluble and Transmembrane Proteins'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this