Phosphoric Acid Entrapment Leads to Apparent Protein Heterogeneity


Recombinant proteins produced in prokaryotes or eukaryotes show certain types of heterogeneity due to post-translational modifications. Some preparations of a soluble interferon γ receptor, produced inEscherichia coli, appeared as a double band with slightly different mobilities in non-reducing sodium dodecylsulfate and native polyacrylamide gels. Ion spray mass spectrometry showed that the two forms had a mass difference of one to three multiples of 97 ± 2 D. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis revealed the presence of phosphoric acid in the hydrolysate and in the intact protein. The more slowly migrating protein species had trapped molecules of phosphoric acid during the protein extraction. Most of the trapped phosphoric acid was loosely associated with the protein. One to three molecules were tightly, but non-covalently linked per receptor molecule. Phosphoric acid entrapment did not affect biological activity and most likely did not affect protein conformation. The species carrying phosphoric acid showed higher solubility. Trapping of phosphoric acid by proteins may be a general phenomenon and the results reported here thus useful in the characterization of other recombinant proteins.

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Fountoulakis, M., Vilbois, F., Oesterhelt, G. et al. Phosphoric Acid Entrapment Leads to Apparent Protein Heterogeneity. Nat Biotechnol 13, 383–388 (1995).

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