Microfluidic Flow Cell for Sequential Digestion of Immobilized Proteoliposomes
Journal article, 2012
We have developed a microfluidic flow cell where stepwise enzymatic digestion is performed on immobilized proteoliposomes and the resulting cleaved peptides are analyzed with liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS). The flow cell channels consist of two parallel gold surfaces mounted face to face with a thin spacer and feature an inlet and an outlet port. Proteoliposomes (50–150 nm in diameter) obtained from red blood cells (RBC), or Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, were immobilized on the inside of the flow cell channel, thus forming a stationary phase of proteoliposomes. The rate of proteoliposome immobilization was determined using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) which showed that 95% of the proteoliposomes bind within 5 min. The flow cell was found to bind a maximum of 1 μg proteoliposomes/cm2, and a minimum proteoliposome concentration required for saturation of the flow cell was determined to be 500 μg/mL. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) studies showed an even distribution of immobilized proteoliposomes on the surface. The liquid encapsulated between the surfaces has a large surface-to-volume ratio, providing rapid material transfer rates between the liquid phase and the stationary phase. We characterized the hydrodynamic properties of the flow cell, and the force acting on the proteoliposomes during flow cell operation was estimated to be in the range of 0.1–1 pN, too small to cause any proteoliposome deformation or rupture. A sequential proteolytic protocol, repeatedly exposing proteoliposomes to a digestive enzyme, trypsin, was developed and compared with a single-digest protocol. The sequential protocol was found to detect 65% more unique membrane-associated protein (p < 0.001, n = 6) based on peptide analysis with LC–MS/MS, compared to a single-digest protocol. Thus, the flow cell described herein is a suitable tool for shotgun proteomics on proteoliposomes, enabling more detailed characterization of complex protein samples.