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The composition, stoichiometry, and organization of protein complexes can be determined by collision-induced dissociation (CID) coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). The increased use of this approach in structural biology prompts a better understanding of the dissociation mechanism(s). Here we report a detailed investigation of the CID of two dodecameric, heat-stable and toroidally shaped complexes: heat shock protein 16.9 (HSP16.9) and stable protein 1 (SP-1). While HSP16.9 dissociates by sequential loss of unfolded monomers, SP-1 ejects not only monomers, but also its building blocks (dimers), and multiples thereof (tetramers and hexamers). Unexpectedly, the dissociation of SP-1 is strongly charge-dependent: loss of the building blocks increases with higher charge states of this complex. By combining MS/MS with ion mobility (IM-MS/MS), we have monitored the unfolding and dissociation events for these complexes in the gas phase. For HSP16.9 unfolding occurs at lower energies than the ejection of subunits, whereas for SP-1 unfolding and dissociation take place simultaneously. We consider these results in the light of the structural organization of HSP16.9 and SP-1 and hypothesize that SP-1 is unable to unfold extensively due to its particular quaternary structure and unusually high charge density. This investigation increases our understanding of the factors governing the CID of protein complexes and moves us closer to the goal of obtaining structural information on subunit interactions and packing from gas-phase experiments.

Original publication




Journal article


Anal Chem

Publication Date





9702 - 9710


Dimerization, Gases, Heat-Shock Proteins, Ions, Multiprotein Complexes, Plant Proteins, Protein Unfolding, Tandem Mass Spectrometry