Liquid chromatography setup-dependent artefactual methionine oxidation of peptides: The importance of an adapted quality control process

Baumans, France, et al. “Liquid Chromatography Setup-Dependent Artefactual Methionine Oxidation of Peptides: The Importance of an Adapted Quality Control Process.” Journal of Chromatography A, Elsevier BV, Sept. 2021, p. 462449. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2021.462449.


In both biologics quality control experiments and protein post-translational modification studies, the analytical system used is not supposed to bring any artefactual modifications which could impair the results. In this work, we investigated oxidation of methionine-containing peptides during reversed-phase (RP) chromatographic separation. We first used a synthetic methionine-containing peptide to evaluate this artefactual phenomenon and then considered more complex samples (i.e., plasma and HeLa protein digests). The methionine oxidation levels of the peptides were systematically assessed and compared for the long-term use of the analytical column, the sample trapping time, the gradient length, the sample load and the nature of the stationary phase (HSS T3 from Waters, YMC Triart C18 from YMC Europe GmbH and BEH130 C18 from Waters). In addition to the oxidation of methionine in solution, we observed on the HSS T3 and the BEH130 stationary phases an additional broad peak corresponding to an on-column oxidized species. Considering the HSS T3 phase, our results highlight that the on-column oxidation level significantly increases with the age of the analytical column and the gradient length and reaches 56 % when a 1-year-old column set is used with a 180 min-long LC method. These levels go to 0 % and 18 % for the YMC Triart C18 and the BEH130 C18 phases respectively. Interestingly, the on-column oxidation proportion decreases as the injected sample load increases suggesting the presence of a discrete number of oxidation sites within the stationary phase of the analytical column. Those findings observed in different laboratories using distinct set of columns, albeit to varying degrees, strengthen the need for a standard of methionine-containing peptide that could be used as a quality control to appraise the status of the liquid chromatographic columns.