Detecting Protein–Glycolipid Interactions Using CaR-ESI-MS and Model Membranes: Comparison of Pre-loaded and Passively Loaded Picodiscs

  • Jun Li
  • Ling Han
  • Jianing Li
  • Elena N. Kitova
  • Zi Jian Xiong
  • Gilbert G. Privé
  • John S. Klassen
Research Article


Catch-and-release electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (CaR-ESI-MS), implemented using model membranes (MMs), is a promising approach for the discovery of glycolipid ligands of glycan-binding proteins (GBPs). Picodiscs (PDs), which are lipid-transporting complexes composed of the human sphingolipid activator protein saposin A and phospholipids, have proven to be useful MMs for such studies. The present work compares the use of conventional (pre-loaded) PDs with passively loaded PDs (PLPDs) for CaR-ESI-MS screening of glycolipids against cholera toxin B subunit homopentamer (CTB5). The pre-loaded PDs were prepared from a mixture of purified glycolipid and phospholipid or a mixture of lipids extracted from tissue, while the PLPDs were prepared by incubating PDs containing only phospholipid with glycolipid-containing lipid mixtures in aqueous solution. Time-dependent changes in the composition of the PLPDs produced by incubation with glycomicelles of the ganglioside GM1 were monitored using collision-induced dissociation of the gaseous PD ions and from the extent of ganglioside binding to CTB5 measured by ESI-MS. GM1 incorporation into PDs was evident within a few hours of incubation. At incubation times ≥ 10 days, GM1 binding to CTB5 was indistinguishable from that observed with pre-loaded PDs produced directly from GM1 at the same concentration. Comparison of ganglioside binding to CTB5 measured for pre-loaded PDs and PLPDs prepared from glycolipids extracted from pig and mouse brain revealed that the PLPDs allow for the detection of a greater number of ganglioside ligands. Together, the results of this study suggest PLPDs may have advantages over conventionally prepared PDs for screening glycolipids against GBPs using CaR-ESI-MS.

Graphical Abstract


Glycolipid Glycan-binding protein Catch-and-release electrospray ionization mass spectrometry Screening Model membranes Picodiscs Nanodiscs 



The authors are grateful for the financial support provided by the Alberta Glycomics Centre (J.S.K.), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (G.G.P.), and an Alberta Technology Futures Graduate Student Scholarship (J.L.).

Supplementary material

13361_2018_1936_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 4276 kb)


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Copyright information

© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun Li
    • 1
  • Ling Han
    • 1
  • Jianing Li
    • 1
  • Elena N. Kitova
    • 1
  • Zi Jian Xiong
    • 2
  • Gilbert G. Privé
    • 2
    • 3
  • John S. Klassen
    • 1
  1. 1.Alberta Glycomics Centre and Department of ChemistryUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Princess Margaret Cancer CentreUniversity Health NetworkTorontoCanada

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