The reaction of cytochrome c with the electrophilic compounds (glutathion-S-yl)-1,4-benzoquinone (GSBQ) and iodoacetamide was studied using mass spectrometry. GSBQ is a nephrotoxic quinol-thioether metabolite of benzoquinone, while iodoacetamide is an alkylating agent targeting cysteine thiols. Both chemicals formed covalent adducts with cytochrome c. GSBQ formed adducts with cytochrome c at pH 6 on several histidine and lysine residues. At a pH > 7, the initial product rearranged to a disubstituted cyclic quinone species preferentially found at two sites on the protein, Lys25-Lys27 and Lys86-Lys87, via quinol amine linkages. These two sites were previously determined to be the targets of benzoquinone adduct formation [Person et al. (2003) Chem. Res. Toxicol. 16, 598-608]. Cyclic reaction products are preferentially formed at two sites on the protein because of the presence of multiple basic residues in a conformationally flexible region whereas noncyclic products bind to a broad spectrum of available lysine and histidine nucleophiles. Iodoacetamide was a less selective alkylating agent able to form adducts on the majority of the nucleophilic sites of the protein. MS/MS spectra were used to identify signature ions for GSBQ-adducted peptides from the characteristic fragmentation patterns. Neutral losses of the 129 Da γ-glutamate residue and of the 273 Da glutathione moiety were found in both cysteine thiol- and lysine amine-linked GSBQ adduct MS/MS. Characteristic fragment ions were used in conjunction with the scoring algorithm for spectral analysis to search for adducted species present at low levels in the sample, and the analysis is applicable generally to detection of glutathione conjugates by MS/MS. Parallel analysis using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-MS to compare spectra of control and treated samples allowed identification of peptide adducts formed by direct addition of GSBQ and by the subsequent loss of the glutathione moiety in a pH-dependent cyclization reaction.
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