What’s In YOUR Protein? Optimizing Protease Digestions to Get the Inside Scoop

It’s time to analyze your protein and you are trying to decide where to begin. You are asking questions like: Which protease do I choose? How much enzyme should I use in my digest? How long should I perform my digest?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all answer to this type of question other than… “well it depends.” All protease digests will be a balance between denaturing the protein sample to allow access to cleavage sites, optimizing conditions for the protease to function, and compatibility with your workflow and downstream applications. We provide general guidelines that work for most samples, but frequently you will need to optimize the conditions need for your specific sample and application.

Here, I use the example of a trypsin digest for downstream mass spectrometry to highlight key questions to ask and factors that can be optimized for any digest.

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Trypsin/Lys-C Mix: Alternative for standard trypsin protein digestions

Trypsin/Lys-C Mix, Mass Spec Grade, is a mixture of Trypsin Gold, Mass Spectrometry Grade, and rLys-C, Mass Spec Grade. The Trypsin/Lys-C Mix is designed to improve digestion of proteins or protein mixtures in solution.It is a little known fact that trypsin cleaves at lysine residues with lesser efficiency than at arginine residues. Inefficient proteolysis at lysine residues is the major cause of missed (undigested) cleavages in trypsin digests.


Supplementing trypsin with Lys-C enables cleavage at lysines with excepetional efficiency and specificity. Following the conventional trypsin digestion protocol (i.e., overnight incubation at nondenaturing conditions, reduction,alkylation, 25:1 protein:protease ratio [w/w], mix and incubate overnight at 37°C.) Replacing trypsin with Trypsin/Lys-C Mix in this conventional protocol leads to multiple benefits for protein analysis including more accurate mass spectrometry-based protein quantitation and improved protein mass spectrometry analytical reproducibility.