Immuto Technology and Platform

Common Techniques for Protein Footprinting Analysis: A Quick Guide

Faraz A Choudhury, PhD

President and CEO, Immuto Scientific Inc.

Protein footprinting is a powerful technique used to investigate the interactions between proteins and their ligands. Several methods for performing protein footprinting include chemical modification, hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX), infrared spectroscopy, and circular dichroism. 

Each technique has its strengths and weaknesses, making it essential to select the appropriate method for a given protein-ligand system carefully.

1. Chemical modification

Chemical modification involves labeling the protein with a reactive group, such as a cleavable photoreactive group, and subjecting it to chemical treatments to determine the protein regions protected or modified by the ligand.

This method can provide high-resolution information about specific residues involved in ligand binding. However, alterations are often extensive and it often requires non-native conditions for binding, such as variable pH or exposure to solvents. 

Immuto's approach to chemical modification is low-touch and maintains the native environment, resulting in the most relevant biological information.

2. Hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX)

HDX involves exchanging hydrogen atoms in the protein with deuterium atoms and then monitoring the exchange rate to determine the regions of the protein protected or modified by the ligand.

While HDX is non-covalent, the deuterium naturally back-exchanges with native hydrogen in the protein solution over time. As a result, HDX experiments are typically performed at ultra-low pH and exceedingly cold temperatures and can take hours for a full exchange. Additionally, the non-covalent, back-exchange-prone deuterium labels can result in the experimental data's lack of reliability and reproducibility, with differences seen day-to-day or even hour-to-hour.

3. Infrared spectroscopy

Infrared spectroscopy involves analyzing the infrared spectrum of the protein after chemical or physical treatments to determine the regions of the protein protected or modified by the ligand.

This approach provides very low-res results—often unable to resolve anything beyond the macromolecular structural changes seen with wholesale modification. Another drawback: it involves modifying the protein with crosslinking agents that can perturb native structure.

4. Circular dichroism

Circular dichroism is a similar technique involving the analysis of the circular dichroism spectrum of the protein after chemical or physical treatments to determine the regions of the protein that are protected or modified by the ligand. Again, this is a very low-resolution approach, often unable to resolve anything beyond the macromolecular structural changes seen with wholesale modification.

A better alternative technique

Immuto's methodology for protein footprinting aims to be all-encompassing, allowing for success in various situations while capturing the most relevant, native-state biological data for downstream development. 

By maintaining the native environment and minimizing the use of non-native conditions, Immuto's approach to chemical modification is particularly well-suited for studying protein-ligand interactions in their native state. Additionally, it is highly reproducible and reliable, providing high-quality data that can be used confidently in downstream development efforts.

Selecting the appropriate protein footprinting technique depends on the specific protein-ligand system being studied and the desired resolution and reliability of the data. While each technique discussed here has its strengths and weaknesses, Immuto's approach to protein footprinting provides a powerful and versatile tool for studying protein-ligand interactions in their native state.

The key takeaway

There are several techniques for protein footprinting analysis, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the appropriate method depends on the specific protein-ligand system and the desired resolution and reliability of the data. 

Immuto's methodology offers a comprehensive approach to studying protein-ligand interactions in their native state while maintaining high reproducibility and reliability, making it a powerful and versatile tool for downstream development efforts.

Resources and next steps

Download our free white paperHydroxyl Radical Protein Footprinting: A Breakthrough Technique for Epitope Mapping—to see exactly how your development lifecycle stands to gain from the latest techniques.

Explore our technology to learn more about how we’re revolutionizing the drug discovery process and helping our partners tackle previously incurable diseases, and promoting a healthier world. Contact us to learn more and schedule a discovery session.

AUTHOR BIO

Faraz A Choudhury, PhD

President and CEO, Immuto Scientific Inc.

Faraz A. Choudhury, PhD is the President and CEO of Immuto Scientific. Dr. Choudhury co-founded Immuto Scientific in 2018. As the CEO, he defined the vision and strategy, contributed to core inventions, and is currently responsible for the operations and management of the company. Dr. Choudhury co-invented Immuto Scientific’s PLIMB (Plasma Induced Modification to Biomolecules) technology and he has been involved in the design, development and application of the technology from the inception. His doctorate research work focused on developing plasma technologies for semiconductor manufacturing as well as biological applications. After completing his postdoctoral training, he spent several years as a Research Scientist in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin- Madison (UW Madison). His research focused on proteomics, epitope mapping and protein-protein interactions studies using mass spectrometry. Dr. Choudhury served as a Principal Investigator (PI) on two grants and has been involved as co-investigator or contributor to several other grants from NIH, NSF, NIFA, WARF and WEDC totaling over $1.4M. He administered the projects, developed research plans, collaborated with other researchers, and produced several peer-­reviewed publications and two patents.

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