Mass spectrometry

For the second time in three years, Waters Corporation has won the prestigious Editors Gold Award for the best new product at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon).

In 2004, the company’s ACQUITY UPLC system took home the gold and this year success came with its Synapt High Definition MS (HDMS) system which debuted in front of more than 20000 analytical scientists and corporate executives attending Pittcon, the largest annual exposition on lab science.

Used in small molecule research, protein characterisation, metabolite identification and bio-pharmaceutical applications, Waters maintains that the Synapt HDMS system is the first mass spectrometer of its kind to combine high efficiency, ion mobility based measurements and separations with high performance quadrupole, time-of-flight mass spectrometry (Fig.1).

The additional dimension of sample separation afforded by the system provides increased specificity and sample definition. This mean that scientists can extract more information from their samples, including the detection of components previously unseen by conventional mass spectrometers. Visualisation and manipulation of the multi-dimension data produced by the system is performed by DriftScope Mobility Environment software, while operational control is provided by Waters MassLynx software.

According to Waters, this is a new category of mass spectrometry designed for leading researchers working at the limits of conventional mass spectrometry capabilities and who need to further characterise and define their capabilities.

In terms of protein characterisation, this makes investigating molecular conformations more straightforward, extends top-down sequencing coverage and improves detection limis by eliminating the contaminating effects of singly charged ions. Furthermore, it allows the preferential separation of modifed from unmodified peptides, can detect, indentify and characterise heterogeneous species of antibodies, and separate enantiomers and deconvoluted complex mixtures.

Earlier this year, Waters announced that the Max Planck Institute is enhancing its research on neurodegenerative diseases by adding a Synapt HDMS system to its complement of research technologies. The Institute's Department of Cellular Biochemistry recently took delivery of the system to study the role of proteins in causing brain-wasting diseases such as Huntington’s disease.

Oxford University is another new Synapt customer. Its instrument will be used by the Department of Chemistry to study interactions between proteins and small molecules as well as interactions between proteins and other bio-macromolecules.

Commenting on the Pittcon success, worldwide marketing vice president Dr Rohit Khanna said: “Synapt is designed to create new possibilities for scientists and researchers who want to take their research to the next level. We are thrilled that such an esteemed group has recognised this system as the best new product at Pittcon in 2007.”

Thermo’s success

This year’s silver medal went to the new Thermo Scientific LTQXL linear ion trap mass spectrometer featuring electron transfer dissociation (ETD) technology.

Available for the first time on a linear ion trap mass spectrometer, ETD provides important new peptide structural information ‘not available from conventional collisionally induced dissociation (CID) methods’.

ETD is a new fragmentation technique that significantly improves protein characterisation, post-translational modification (PTM) analysis and top-down or middle-down sequencing of proteins and peptides.

According to Thermo Scientific, the LTQXL is the only mass spectrometer that offers multiple dissociation techniques, Pulsed Q Dissociation (PQD), ETD and CID (Fig.2).

“We believe ETD performed on a linear ion trap is a major turning point for the proteomics community, enabling researchers to pinpoint, identify and fully characterise more post-transitional modificatons such as phosphorylation and glycosylation than ever before,” said Greg Herrema, president of Scientific Instruments at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

PQD is a patented technique that eliminates the low mass cut-off concern inherent with all ion traps. This results in extensive coverage for predicted and unpredicted metabolites, and the ability to perform peptide quantification using iTRAQ labels.

In addition, says the company, fast polarity switching for high-sensitivity analysis of unknowns, high resolution isolation (HRI), intelligent data dependent acquisition, and optional high resolution accurate mass functionality are all tools to help the researcher gain confident structural identification routinely.

Overall, therefore, PQD generates more fragments and extends the low mass range. The ETD option provides sequence information not available from conventional methods, while HRI enables isolation of isobaric mass peaks for cleaner MSn spectra. Thermo says this leads to the best coverage for metabolic profiling and proteomics research.

Its applications include: protein identification and quantitative differential expression analysis; biomarker studies and PTM identification; metabolite identification and quantification; drug and forensics screening; horserace drug screening and high-speed LC methods.

Recognition for ETD at Pittcon 2007 follows last year’s Gold Editors’ Award for the company’s LTQ Orbitrap hybrid mass spectrometer.

Taking advantage of the high ion storage capacity and fast cycle times of linear ion trap technology, the LTQ XL with ETD is the only integrated mass spectrometry solution allowing researchers to conduct rapid, alternating CID and ETD experiments during LC/MSn analysis of complex samples. ETD data is easily processed using a new version of BioWorks software – both CID and ETD spectra are searched independently, with results from both searches combined for easy sorting and comparison. This new system provides the most complete view of a proteome currently available.

Pittcon 2007 featured a vast array of new products and technology from more than 1000 exhibitors from around the globe. In selecting the 2007 awards, more than 150 editors and reporters reviewed products they believed deserved the attention of their readers.

The editors then met to share their ideas and cast their ballots for the gold, silver and bronze awards.

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