RICHLAND, Wash. -- Many coaches inspire better performance by pressuring their teams. Now, proteomics researchers are using pressure to improve the performance of their analyses. In a simple solution to a time-consuming problem, the researchers have found that adding pressure early in their protocol squeezes four hours of waiting into a minute.
"We were really happy to see how well it worked," said biochemist Daniel Lopez-Ferrer, a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "We're determining when and how to incorporate it into our analyses." Lopez-Ferrer and his colleagues reported their findings in July 8, 2008 Journal of Proteome Research.
Proteomics researchers learn about organisms by studying the proteins they make, and they want to be able to analyze large numbers of samples fast and sensitively. Cutting down the time-consuming steps would significantly increase the number of samples that could be analyzed. The first, slowest steps in most proteomics protocols requires at least four hours -- researchers often allow this to go overnight because of timing issues for the rest of the process. The team of chemists, biologists and physicists at PNNL investigated whether pressure would improve their process.
What takes so long is the breakdown of full-length proteins into smaller bits called peptides, which can be analyzed by measuring their individual masses. The most common way to break down proteins is to let an enzyme eat through the bonds between the protein building blocks, or amino acids. Scientists have tried a variety of ways to help the enzyme digest these bonds faster, including using microwaves or ultrasound, with varying degrees of success.
Food processors have long been using high pressure to kill pathogens on food (think homemade preserves), and some evidence suggested that as pressure rises from low to high, some enzymes initially become more active b
|Contact: Mary Beckman|
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory