The problem of determining small but significant amounts of carbohydrates, in purified proteins, has been studied using the membrane protein, cytochrome b5. A newly developed method that involves direct gas chromatography-mass spectrometry of sugars obtained by hydrolysis of proteins purified by sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS PAGE) allows the identification and determination of small amounts of carbohydrates (e.g., 20 micrograms of glycoprotein containing a minimum of 0.1% monosaccharide), even in the presence of relatively high amounts of impurities. Application of this method to cytochrome b5 fragments obtained by tryptic digestion from rat liver microsomes and purified by combined gel filtration and ion exchange chromatography, followed by SDS PAGE, has consistently yielded values below 0.07 mol of the individual sugars and aminosugars per mole cytochrome b5. It is concluded that cytochrome b5, at least its trypsin-released major amino-terminal fragment, is not constitutively glycosylated.

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