Boosting your electrospray signal signal for peptides

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  • Published: Aug 25, 2013
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Proteomics

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The lynchpin of most proteomics experiments is the mass spectrometric analysis of peptides or proteins usually by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. However, a lot of the potential is never realised during electrospray ionisation because the vast majority of the peptides fail to enter the mass spectrometer as ions. Now, scientists in Germany have adopted a simple way to increase the signal of peptides in protein digests by up to 10-fold, as they described in Nature Methods.

Building on recent work by another group, they showed that adding 5% DMSO to the LC solvent improved the signal intensities of both low- and high-abundance peptides, having a greater effect for the former. The gain in signal was matched by a decrease in injection times, pointing to an increase in ions entering the mass spectrometer. Overall, more peptides and proteins were identified and measured. Unlike the earlier work, the improvement was not attributed solely to charge-state coalescence but was thought to be due mainly to more efficient ionisation.

One key point to note about this tweak is its generic approach - it can be applied to all LC/MS experiments with no added cost. The research team pointed out that "the gain observed is comparable to that of a new generation of mass spectrometric equipment, demonstrating the substantial analytical as well as economic value of the method."

It is also anticipated that the DMSO effect could be applied to small molecule research and to other chromatographic techniques, generating improvements to LC-tandem-MS studies in general.

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