Massive mass spectrometry for viruses

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  • Published: Apr 2, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: NMR Knowledge Base / Atomic / Infrared Spectroscopy / Proteomics / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Base Peak / Raman / X-ray Spectrometry / Chemometrics & Informatics

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Mass spectrometry struggles to measure massive particles accurately but US scientists have developed a charge detection mass spectrometer that can do so, even for species that are more than 20 megaDaltons in size. The instrument is described in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry by researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and University of Alabama at Birmingham, who used it to measure procapsids from the bacteriophage P22, which are the protein shells for the viral DNA.

The advantage of this type of instrument is the ability to measure both the charge and the m/z values of ions independently, so that the problem of charge-state resolution does not arise. So the procapsids ions, generated by electrospray ionisation, were measured at a mass of 23.60 MDa, which is equivalent to the presence of about 112 scaffolding proteins. A second peak was detected at 19.84 MDa and this was attributed to the empty capsid which had somehow lost the scaffolding proteins or had been produced without them.

The researchers explained that these results could not have been replicated on a quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometer because the resulting mass spectra would be far too complex to extract the spectra from the multiple charge states that would be present.

"Since CDMS does not rely on charge state resolution, it is uniquely equipped to analyze mixtures of species at masses beyond what can presently be achieved with conventional MS," say the team. With the instrumental improvements that refined the charge accuracy to 0.7 charges, the technique will be able to provide valuable structural information for mass ive particles that would otherwise be unattainable.

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