Identification of protein SUMOylation sites by mass spectrometry using combined microwave-assisted aspartic acid cleavage and tryptic digestion.

Omoruyi Osula, Stephen Swatkoski, Robert J. Cotter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Small-ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) is a posttranslational modifier of protein substrates at lysine residues that conjugates to proteins in response to various changes in the cell. As a result of SUMO modification, marked changes in transcription regulation, DNA repair, subcellular localization and mitosis, among other cellular processes, are known to occur. However, although the identification of ubiquitylation sites by mass spectrometry is aided in part by the presence of a small di-amino acid GlyGly "tag" that remains on lysine residues following tryptic digestion, SUMOylation poses a particular challenge as the absence of a basic residue near to the SUMO C-terminus results in a significant 27 or 32-amino-acid sequence branch conjugated to the substrate peptide. MS/MS analyses of these branch peptides generally reveal abundant fragment ions resulting from cleavage of the SUMO tail, but which obscure those needed for characterizing the target peptide sequence. Other approaches for identifying SUMO substrates exist and include overexpression of the SUMO isoforms using an N-terminal histidine tag, as well as site-directed mutagenesis of the C-terminal end of the SUMO sequence. Here, we employ combined enzymatic/chemical approaches, which serve to shorten the SUMO tag and thus help to simplify SUMO spectra, making interpretation of mass spectra and location of the SUMOylation site easier. As described in this report, we demonstrate a method for identifying SUMOylation sites using three commercially available SUMO- modified isoforms and by employing acid-only and acid/trypsin cleavage strategies. These approaches were carried out using MALDI-time-of-flight (TOF) and LC/MS instrumentation, along with collision induced dissociation (CID) and electron transfer dissociation (ETD).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-654
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of mass spectrometry : JMS
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Spectroscopy


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