A significant number of proteins in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes are known to be post-translationally modified by the addition of phosphate, serving as a means of rapidly regulating protein function. Phosphorylation of the amino acids serine, threonine and tyrosine are the focus of the vast majority of studies aimed at elucidating the extent and roles of such modification, yet other amino acids, including histidine and aspartate, are also phosphorylated. Although histidine phosphorylation is known to play extensive roles in signalling in eukaryotes, plants and fungi, roles for phosphohistidine are poorly defined in higher eukaryotes. Characterization of histidine phosphorylation aimed at elucidating such information is problematic due to the acid-labile nature of the phosphoramidate bond, essential for many of its biological functions. Although MS-based strategies have proven extremely useful in the analysis of other types of phosphorylated peptides, the chromatographic procedures essential for such approaches promote rapid hydrolysis of phosphohistidine-containing peptides. Phosphate transfer to non-biologically relevant aspartate residues during MS analysis further complicates the scenario.

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