Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Abstract Ultra-high-sensitivity, biopolymer sequencing is a goal in many fields of molecular biology, and collisionally activated decomposition electrospray mass spectrometry (CAD ES MS/MS) using a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer has become a method of choice for work in the high- to mid-femtomole range. However, when the detection of ions becomes statistical, as it may in that range, the mass assignment of fragment ions is inaccurate and either sequencing becomes impossible or ambiguities result due, for example, to the closeness in amino acid residue masses (I/L, N or K/Q, E). Some ambiguities may be resolved by synthesizing possible sequences, but this is unsatisfactory. In considering the limitations of triple quadrupole MS/MS with respect to scanning ion detection, resolution, transmission, and mass accuracy, we reasoned that a novel geometry quadrupole orthogonal acceleration time-of-flight (Q-TOF) instrument would have special merit for ultra-high-sensitivity MS/MS sequencing, and suggested its construction for this purpose some three years ago. A prototype Q-TOF has now been built by Micromass [Morris et al. (1996), Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 10, 889–896], and in the first research on the instrument, including MHC antigen and filarial nematode glycoprotein studies, we demonstrate low-femtomole- and attomole-range sequencing with mass accuracy of better than 0.1 Da throughout the daughter-ion spectrum, thus removing sequencing ambiguities in some of the most challenging work demanding the highest sensitivity.
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