Mass spectrometry is a method for accurately measuring the mass of molecules, and when used with proper controls can also be employed to measure the amount of a compound. The first mass spectrometers were developed at the beginning of the last century and were used to discover several of the atomic elements and isotopes. Over time, instruments have been developed that can be used for analyzing increasingly large (and fragile) molecules, and modern instruments are commonly used for analyzing biomolecules such as proteins/peptides, DNA/RNA, sugars and lipids. They also play a major role in the study of drug metabolism in the pharmaceutical industry.
The study of proteins, driven by the understanding that they are the principal elements that carry out biological function, has been a fundamental part of modern biochemistry for over a century. Until recently, these endeavors generally focused on individual entities where increasingly sophisticated methods, largely developed in the second half of the last century, allowed their dissection at the atomic level. However, as the facile determination of nucleic acid sequences revealed the full complement of the genes of multiple organisms, i.e their genomes, interest shifted to considering the corresponding protein complement (proteome) of each, thus giving rise to a new area of emphasis, proteomics. Since the proteome of an organism is much more complex than its corresponding genome, in part because of alterations introduced via alternate splicing and post-translational modifications that occur with most proteins, the traditional approaches of protein chemistry had to be supplemented with improved separation and identification methods before real progress could be achieved. These have primarily been provided by advances in mass spectrometry, which has become the core technology for proteomic experimentation. When integrated with a variety of other analytical methods, it is possible to productively examine large scale samples derived from organisms, organs, and tissues from a wide range of biological paradigms. Such studies are revealing substantial new concepts in basic cell and molecular biology. Of particular interest are the potential applications of these findings for the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and prophylactics that will be useful in treating human and animal disease.
The Resource develops the proteomic analysis package Protein Prospector. A series of video tutorials (https://vimeo.com/user6951113/videos/) have been recorded that explain how to use this software for different types of analysis.