Mass spectrometry and ion mobility spectrometry of G-quadruplexes. A study of solvent effects on dimer formation and structural transitions in the telomeric DNA sequence d(TAGGGTTAGGGT).
We survey here state of the art mass spectrometry methodologies for investigating G-quadruplexes, and will illustrate them with a new study on a simple model system: the dimeric G-quadruplex of the 12-mer telomeric DNA sequence d(TAGGGTTAGGGT), which can adopt either a parallel or an antiparallel structure. We will discuss the solution conditions compatible with electrospray ionisation, the quantification of complexes using ESI-MS, the interpretation of ammonium ion preservation in the complexes in the gas phase, and the use of ion mobility spectrometry to resolve ambiguities regarding the strand stoichiometry, or separate and characterise different structural isomers. We also describe that adding electrospray-compatible organic co-solvents (methanol, ethanol, isopropanol or acetonitrile) to aqueous ammonium acetate increases the stability and rate of formation of dimeric G-quadruplexes, and causes structural transitions to parallel structures. Structural changes were probed by circular dichroism and ion mobility spectrometry, and the excellent correlation between the two techniques validates the use of ion mobility to investigate G-quadruplex folding. We also demonstrate that parallel G-quadruplex structures are easier to preserve in the gas phase than antiparallel structures.