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Collision-induced dissociation (CID) is the dominant method for probing intact macromolecular complexes in the gas phase by means of mass spectrometry (MS). The energy obtained from collisional activation is dependent on the charge state of the ion and the pressures and potentials within the instrument: these factors limit CID capability. Activation by infrared (IR) laser radiation offers an attractive alternative as the radiation energy absorbed by the ions is charge-state-independent and the intensity and time scale of activation is controlled by a laser source external to the mass spectrometer. Here we implement and apply IR activation, in different irradiation regimes, to study both soluble and membrane protein assemblies. We show that IR activation using high-intensity pulsed lasers is faster than collisional and radiative cooling and requires much lower energy than continuous IR irradiation. We demonstrate that IR activation is an effective means for studying membrane protein assemblies, and liberate an intact V-type ATPase complex from detergent micelles, a result that cannot be achieved by means of CID using standard collision energies. Notably, we find that IR activation can be sufficiently soft to retain specific lipids bound to the complex. We further demonstrate that, by applying a combination of collisional activation, mass selection, and IR activation of the liberated complex, we can elucidate subunit stoichiometry and the masses of specifically bound lipids in a single MS experiment.


Journal article


Analytical chemistry

Publication Date





7060 - 7067


Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford , Oxford, OX1 3QZ, United Kingdom.