Revealing novel telomere proteins using in vivo cross-linking, tandem affinity purification, and label-free quantitative LC-FTICR-MS

Thalia Nittis, Lionel Guittat, Richard D. LeDuc, Ben Dao, Julien P. Duxin, Henry Rohrs, R. Reid Townsend, Sheila A. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Telomeres are DNA-protein structures that protect chromosome ends from the actions of the DNA repair machinery. When telomeric integrity is compromised, genomic instability ensues. Considerable effort has focused on identification of telomere-binding proteins and elucidation of their functions. To date, protein identification has relied on classical immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometric approaches, primarily under conditions that favor isolation of proteins with strong or long lived interactions that are present at sufficient quantities to visualize by SDS-PAGE. To facilitate identification of low abundance and transiently associated telomere-binding proteins, we developed a novel approach that combines in vivo protein-protein cross-linking, tandem affinity purification, and stringent sequential endoprotease digestion. Peptides were identified by label-free comparative nano-LC-FTICR-MS. Here, we expressed an epitope-tagged telomere-binding protein and utilized a modified chromatin immunoprecipitation approach to cross-link associated proteins. The resulting immunoprecipitant contained telomeric DNA, establishing that this approach captures bona fide telomere binding complexes. To identify proteins present in the immunocaptured complexes, samples were reduced, alkylated, and digested with sequential endoprotease treatment. The resulting peptides were purified using a microscale porous graphite stationary phase and analyzed using nano-LC-FTICR-MS. Proteins enriched in cells expressing HA-FLAG-TIN2 were identified by label-free quantitative analysis of the FTICR mass spectra from different samples and ion trap tandem mass spectrometry followed by database searching. We identified all of the proteins that constitute the telomeric shelterin complex, thus validating the robustness of this approach. We also identified 62 novel telomere-binding proteins. These results demonstrate that DNA-bound protein complexes, including those present at low molar ratios, can be identified by this approach. The success of this approach will allow us to create a more complete understanding of telomere maintenance and have broad applicability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1144-1156
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


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