Integrated enzyme reactor and high resolving chromatography in "sub-chip" dimensions for sensitive protein mass spectrometry.
ABSTRACT: Reliable, sensitive and automatable analytical methodology is of great value in e.g. cancer diagnostics. In this context, an on-line system for enzymatic cleavage of proteins, subsequent peptide separation by liquid chromatography (LC) with mass spectrometric detection has been developed using "sub-chip" columns (10-20??m inner diameter, ID). The system could detect attomole amounts of isolated cancer biomarker progastrin-releasing peptide (ProGRP), in a more automatable fashion compared to previous methods. The workflow combines protein digestion using an 20??m ID immobilized trypsin reactor with a polymeric layer of 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate-vinyl azlactone (HEMA-VDM), desalting on a polystyrene-divinylbenzene (PS-DVB) monolithic trap column, and subsequent separation of resulting peptides on a 10??m ID (PS-DVB) porous layer open tubular (PLOT) column. The high resolution of the PLOT columns was maintained in the on-line system, resulting in narrow chromatographic peaks of 3-5 seconds. The trypsin reactors provided repeatable performance and were compatible with long-term storage.