The research on transmembrane proteins (TMPs) is quite widespread due to their biological importance. Unfortunately, only a little amount of structural data is available of TMPs. Since technical difficulties arise during their high-resolution structure determination, bioinformatics and other experimental approaches are widely used to characterize their low-resolution structure, namely topology. Experimental and computational methods alone are still limited to determine TMP topology, but their combination becomes significant for the production of reliable structural data. By applying amino acid specific membrane-impermeable labelling agents, it is possible to identify the accessible surface of TMPs. Depending on the residue-specific modifications, new extracellular topology data is gathered, allowing the identification of more extracellular segments for TMPs. A new method has been developed for the experimental analysis of TMPs: covalent modification of the carboxyl groups on the accessible cell surface, followed by the isolation and digestion of these proteins. The labelled peptide fragments and their exact modification sites are identified by nanoLC-MS/MS. The determined peptides are mapped to the primary sequences of TMPs and the labelled sites are utilised as extracellular constraints in topology predictions that contribute to the refined low-resolution structure data of these proteins.
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