Histone proteins are essential elements for DNA packaging. Their PTMs contribute in modeling chromatin structure and recruiting enzymes involved in gene regulation, DNA repair, and chromosome condensation. This fundamental aspect, together with the fact that histone PTMs can be epigenetically inherited through cell generations, enlightens their importance in chromatin biology, and the consequent necessity of having biochemical techniques for their characterization. Nanoflow LC coupled to MS (nanoLC-MS) is the strategy of choice for protein PTM accurate quantification. However, histones require adjustments to the digestion protocol such as lysine derivatization to obtain suitable peptides for the analysis. nanoLC-MS has numerous advantages, spanning from high confidence identification to possibility of high throughput analyses, but the peculiarity of the histone preparation protocol requires continuous monitoring with the most modern available technologies to question its reliability. The work of Meert et al. (Proteomics 2015, 15, 2966-2971) establishes which protocols lead to either incomplete derivatization or derivatization of undesired amino acid residues using a combination of high resolution MS and bioinformatics tools for the alignment and the characterization of nanoLC-MS runs. As well, they identify a number of side reactions that could be potentially misinterpreted as biological PTMs.
- Mass spectrometry
- Posttranslational modifications
- Sample preparation