Evaluation of sample preparation protocols for spider venom profiling by MALDI-TOF MS
Spider venoms are highly complex mixtures containing biologically active substances with potential for use in biotechnology or pharmacology. Fingerprinting of venoms by Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization – Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is a thriving technology, enabling the rapid detection of peptide/protein components that can provide comparative information. In this study, we evaluated the effects of sample preparation procedures on MALDI-TOF mass spectral quality to establish a protocol providing the most reliable analytical outputs. We adopted initial sample preparation conditions from studies already published in this field. Three different MALDI matrixes, three matrix solvents, two sample deposition methods, and different acid concentrations were tested. As a model sample, venom from Brachypelma albopilosa was used. The mass spectra were evaluated on the basis of absolute and relative signal intensities, and signal resolution. By conducting three series of analyses at three weekly intervals, the reproducibility of the mass spectra were assessed as a crucial factor in the selection for optimum conditions. A sample preparation protocol based on the use of an HCCA matrix dissolved in 50% acetonitrile with 2.5% TFA deposited onto the target by the dried-droplet method was found to provide the best results in terms of information yield and repeatability. We propose that this protocol should be followed as a standard procedure, enabling the comparative assessment of MALDI-TOF MS spider venom fingerprints.