Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health
Mass spectrometry Facility trace

Background

The Facility is equipped with several very sensitive, high resolution, mass spectrometers, which allow us to detect, quantify and obtain structural information on extremely small amounts of biological molecules, even in highly complex samples. This is important because biological samples may only be available in small amounts, and the molecules that take part in the biological processes we study, are often present in cells at very low levels, in complex mixtures of many thousands of different molecules. 

Proteins

Although much attention is focussed on genes, proteins are the molecules that perform most of the functions of an organism, and so the study of protein biochemistry is essential for understanding the fundamental processes of life.

It is only in the last 20 years that mass spectrometry of proteins has become practical and it is now an essential tool in protein analysis. There are many uses of mass spectrometry in protein biochemistry, but perhaps the most common is in the identification of unknown proteins.

The methodology has been refined from the starting point where individual purified proteins could be identified, to the current situation where several thousand proteins can not only be identified, but also quantified, in a single analysis. More ...

DNA

The recent discovery that the TET family of enzymes can oxidise the classical epigenetic mark 5-methyl cytosine to 5-hydroxymethyl-, 5-formyl- and 5-carboxyl-cytosine (hmC, fC, caC) in genomic DNA, generated a great deal of interest in understanding their potential functions.

We developed an ultra-high sensitivity method to analyse these, and some other related modified bases (U, hmU), that allowed us to quantify them in small amounts of genomic DNA.

These bases are typically present in extremely low abundance in genomic DNA (<10 - 100 per million bases), which makes their analysis very challenging.

Other molecules

Although most of our work is on proteins and DNA, we can potentially analyse almost any biomolecule and have previously worked on carbohydrates, glycolipids, signalling molecules, hormones, metabolites etc.