Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry is increasingly applied to study the structures and interactions of membrane protein complexes. However, the charging mechanism is complicated by the presence of detergent micelles during ionization. Here, we show that the final charge of membrane proteins can be predicted by their molecular weight when released from the non-charge reducing saccharide detergents. Our data indicate that PEG detergents lower the charge depending on the number of detergent molecules in the surrounding micelle, whereas fos-choline detergents may additionally participate in ion-ion reactions after desolvation. The supercharging reagent sulfolane, on the other hand, has no discernible effect on the charge of detergent-free membrane proteins. Taking our observations into the context of protein-detergent interactions in the gas phase, we propose a charge equilibration model for the generation of native-like membrane protein ions. During ionization of the protein-detergent complex, the ESI charges are distributed between detergent and protein according to proton affinity of the detergent, number of detergent molecules, and surface area of the protein. Charge equilibration influenced by detergents determines the final charge state of membrane proteins. This process likely contributes to maintaining a native-like fold after detergent release and can be harnessed to stabilize particularly labile membrane protein complexes in the gas phase.

Original publication




Journal article


RSC advances

Publication Date





9671 - 9680


Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford South Parks Road Oxford OX1 3QZ UK