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ABI/MDS Build First MS-Based Tool for Amino Acid Analysis, Say Unit Is Faster Than Chromatography

Applied Biosystems and its joint venture partner MDS Sciex announced this week a new mass spectrometry-based laboratory system for analyzing amino acids that they claim can reduce costs and speed the process of analyzing proteins over traditional chromatography methods.
Called the Amino Acid 20/20 analyzer, the system combines mass spectrometry with ABI’s proprietary iTraq reagents to label the amino acids, allowing them to be analyzed for quantitation. An Agilent liquid chromatographer is also used, while pulling it all together is ABI’s Cliquid software designed to facilitate mass spectrometry-based applications.
The AA 20/20 platform is the first amino acid analysis system based on mass spectrometry, ABI/MDS said.
In protein research, applications include verification during protein synthesis and optimization of amino acid content, said Tamara Bond, senior product manager for triple-quadrupole mass spectrometers within ABI’s proteomic and small molecule division.
According to ABI/MDS, the AA 20/20 system speeds up the amino analysis process two-fold over methods using traditional chromatography systems and provides better separation of amino acids including those with identical masses.
Internal standards established by tagging reagents ensure the accuracy of quantitation.
“Other customers have provided components like LC columns that could help with the separation, but we’re offering the mass spec combined with an Agilent front-end LC system, plus software that puts it together very seamlessly,” Bond told ProteoMonitor’s sister publication BioCommerce Week.
Traditionally, amino-acid analysis has been based on chromatography technology, but while the technology is a proven method, Bond said, “it’s a very laborious process and the systems are very prone to break down.”
Beckman Coulter, which had sold dedicated amino acid analyzers, exited the market, she continued, due to high services costs, prompting ABI/MDS to enter the market.
“The market really needed a quantum leap in terms of what was offered to them for their analysis, and this was something we could put the necessary ingredients together,” she said.
Messages left with Beckman Coulter and Hitachi, another leading manufacturer of chromatography-based amino acid analyzer, were not returned.
ABI/MDS and other companies have spent a number of years trying to develop mass spectrometry-based technologies for amino acid analysis, but because of poor resolving power, those efforts fell flat, Bond told ProteoMonitor.
“A lot of the amino acids are very similar to each other and it becomes very difficult to resolve some of the isomeric amino acids,” she said. By using iTraq tagging chemistry, ABI/MDS researchers were able to tag the individual amino acids, then separate them through a column and finally introduce them into a mass spec by using standard MRM quantitation methods.
“You can now separate all 20 amino acids very reproducibly and you can quantitate them with a great deal of accuracy,” Bond said. The AA 20/20 platform can use only ABI/MDS’s triple-quad mass specs.
Another key element to the AA 20/20 system is the Cliquid software package. The first version of Cliquid, geared for food-testing analysis, was introduced in the spring.
The second version of the software being launched with the AA 20/20 system is specifically for amino acid analysis. Because amino acid researchers may not be familiar with mass specs, this version of Cliquid was designed especially so that someone who has never used such instruments will still be able to work the AA 20/20 system.
“It’s four easy steps, it’s a Wizard-based software that” guides the user step-by-step through the analysis process, Bond said.
The AA 20/20 in combination with the API 2000 LC/MS/MS spectrometry system costs about $185,000. Coupled with the API 3200 LC/MS/MS system, researchers should expect to pay $265,000.

“The market really needed a quantum leap in terms of what was offered to them for their analysis, and this was something we could put the necessary ingredients together.”

Bond estimated the market for the AA 20/20 system to be $100 million. “This is really a strategic introduction for us to be going into areas where mass spec was not traditionally used but to open up the possibilities for mass spec to be used for different types of analysis,” Bond said.
GlaxoSmithKline has been using the system since the spring and said it has realized “significant” savings in time and costs.
“The higher sensitivity … allows us to use less sample, which in some cases is quite precious,” Jon Williams, manager of discovery research for the drug maker, said in a statement.
The ABI/MDS system also has use renewable fuel production and the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center has used the AA 20/20 system to determine the nutritional value of products used for animal feed, ABI/MDS said in a statement.
Though Bond said ABI is the first firm to offer a complete package utilizing mass spec for amino acid analysis, it could face competition in the future from firms that also sell isobaric tagging reagents.
Among these firms is PerkinElmer, which acquired Agilix’s i-PROT protein-labeling technology earlier this year [See PM 03/09/06]. The i-PROT technology uses isobaric mass tags to simultaneously quantify proteins from multiple samples in one mixture, thereby enabling quantitative comparison between proteins expressed in a number of different conditions, for example at six or seven different time points.

Another potential competitor could be Bruker Biosciences. Last year, the firm’s Bruker Daltonics unit forged an alliance with German firm Serva Electrophoresis to co-market Serva’s Isotope Coded Protein Label for quantitative proteomics [See PM 06/10/05].

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