Imidazole Derivatives Improve Charge Reduction and Stabilization for Native Mass Spectrometry

Julia A. Townsend, James E. Keener, Zachary M. Miller, James S. Prell, Michael T. Marty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Noncovalent interactions between biomolecules are critical to their activity. Native mass spectrometry (MS) has enabled characterization of these interactions by preserving noncovalent assemblies for mass analysis, including protein-ligand and protein-protein complexes for a wide range of soluble and membrane proteins. Recent advances in native MS of lipoprotein nanodiscs have also allowed characterization of antimicrobial peptides and membrane proteins embedded in intact lipid bilayers. However, conventional native electrospray ionization (ESI) can disrupt labile interactions. To stabilize macromolecular complexes for native MS, charge reducing reagents can be added to the solution prior to ESI, such as triethylamine, trimethylamine oxide, and imidazole. Lowering the charge acquired during ESI reduces Coulombic repulsion that leads to dissociation, and charge reduction reagents may also lower the internal energy of the ions through evaporative cooling. Here, we tested a range of imidazole derivatives to discover improved charge reducing reagents and to determine how their chemical properties influence charge reduction efficacy. We measured their effects on a soluble protein complex, a membrane protein complex in detergent, and lipoprotein nanodiscs with and without embedded peptides, and used computational chemistry to understand the observed charge-reduction behavior. Together, our data revealed that hydrophobic substituents at the 2 position on imidazole can significantly improve both charge reduction and gas-phase stability over existing reagents. These new imidazole derivatives will be immediately beneficial for a range of native MS applications and provide chemical principles to guide development of novel charge reducing reagents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14765-14772
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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