Background: About 2/3 of the hemoglobin (Hb) variants do not show a charge difference to the wildtype entity but most of them differ in hydrophobicity. In addition to cation exchange chromatography, globin differentiation by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (MS) was introduced. Hb Ullevaal was chosen as one example to demonstrate the performance of the approach.
Methods: Screening for Hb variants was performed using cation exchange HPLC. For globin separation reversed phase-LC/MS was performed. Tryptic digests of variants were separated on RP-HPLC with or without CID-fragmentation and database search for identification of mutation bearing fragments. Sequencing of the β-globin gene has been performed.
Results: HbS, HbC, HbE, Hb South Florida and Hb Ullevaal show typical and distinct patterns in the globin LC/MS according to the theoretical protein data. The tryptic digest of Hb Ullevaal resulted in the identification of the respective mutated peptide βT9, which was confirmed by genetic sequencing.
Conclusions: By the application of globin-LC/MS two more dimensions for the Hb identification are added, hydropathicity and protein mass. With this workflow as screening procedure for Hb variants it is expected to be able to detect and identify the majority of variants with the exception of highly unstable variants, which cannot be determined in the peripheral blood at all. A negative result makes the presence of a significant Hb variant in the peripheral blood improbable.