Mass spectrometric characterization of mitochondrial electron transport complexes: subunits of the rat heart ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase.
Complex III of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase, was isolated by blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Ten of the 11 polypeptides present in this complex were detected directly by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) following electroelution of the active complex. Tryptic and chymotryptic digestion of the complex permit the identification of specific peptides from all of the protein subunits with 70% coverage of the 250 kDa complex. The mass of all 11 proteins was confirmed by second dimension Tricine sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and elution of the separated polypeptides. Additionally, the identity of the core I, core II, cytochrome c and the Rieske iron-sulfur protein were confirmed by liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) characterization of the peptides generated by in-gel trypsin digestion of the SDS-PAGE separated proteins. The methodology demonstrated for analyzing this membrane-bound electron transport complex should be applicable to other membrane complexes, particularly the other mitochondrial electron transport complexes. The MS analysis of the peptides obtained by in-gel digestion of the intact complex permits the simultaneous characterization of the native proteins and modifications that contribute to mitochondrial deficits that have been implicated as contributing to pathological conditions.