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Carnegie Mellon scientist uses mass spectrometer to weigh virus particle, von Willebrand factor
Date:8/23/2007

BOSTONWith unprecedented sensitivity, Carnegie Mellon Universitys Mark Bier has characterized large viral particles and bulky von Willebrand factors using a novel mass spectrometer. These exciting results may lead to new biological discoveries and represent a step closer to rapid disease diagnosis using mass spectrometry.

This is a new frontier in mass spectrometry research, said Bier, associate research professor and director of the Center for Molecular Analysis in the Department of Chemistry in the Mellon College of Science. We anticipate that this work will help to advance research in proteomics, virology, molecular biology and nanotechnology. Bier will present his research Thursday, Aug. 23 at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

Mass spectrometers, which separate molecules based on their mass-to-charge ratio, can help researchers identify compounds based on their unique mass and are routinely used to determine the weight, structure and amount of small molecules or fragments of molecules. Conventional instruments, however, are not equipped to sensitively characterize large molecules over 150 kiloDaltons (a measure of mass) at a low-charge state.

Using a Macromizer mass spectrometer, Biers group successfully analyzed the outer shell of the HK97 virus. They collected a mass spectrum of the mature protein shell, which weighs 12.9 megaDaltons (12,900 kiloDaltons) and the uncleaved protein shell (17.7 megaDaltons), which revealed an unprecedented 30+ positive charges. They also collected an improved mass spectrum of a von Willebrand factor (0.2 to 1.1 megaDaltons), a protein complex in blood necessary for proper coagulation. The ability to directly mass-analyze these heavy biological molecules intact and at a low-charge state represents a new level of analysis previously unattainable using conventional detector technology, according to Bier.

Many biological molecules are too big to be analy
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Contact: Amy Pavlak
apavlak@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-8619
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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