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At Pittcon, New Mass Specs, MALDIs, ETD Instruments Top List of Proteomic Debuts

NEW ORLEANS ­­— Bucking the trends of recent years, mass spectrometers made a big splash at the Pittsburgh Conference held here this week.
Several vendors launched new versions of the instruments at this year’s conference while one used the meeting to begin a strategy of increasing its geographic footprint in the life sciences.
The instruments unveiled this week can serve as an indication of where future research and development in the field of proteomics may be heading. Below are the top launches with proteomics applications from the conference.
Shimadzu Takes on US
The Columbian, Md.-based subsidiary of Shimadzu unveiled several new instruments with life-science applications, including several updated MALDI-TOF mass specs as part of an overall strategy to expand its footprint in life sciences sector [see related story, this issue].
Its AXIMA line of MALDI-TOFs was officially introduced in late-February. The revamped line includes the Assurance, the Confidence, and the Performance models.
According to the company, the Performance is particularly suited for proteomics work. It features high-energy tandem mass spectrometry using collision-induced dissociation, and in reflectron mode, it generates high-resolution MS data for peptide mass fingerprinting and complex mixture analysis.
“The collisional-induced dissociation has been increased so it’s a true high energy MS/MS,” said Scott Kuzdzal, who recently moved from PerkinElmer to become Shimadzu Scientific Instruments’ Biotech manager.
The new line of AXIMA mass specs, he said, is designed to give researchers greater flexibility.
“You don’t want to sell one size fits all,” he said. “I think we were trying to sell a $300,000 MALDI to every laboratory, but the point here is that you can go with a $180,000 unit that meets your needs. Or if you have the money and you need the performance of a TOF/TOF, you can also do that.”
The Performance is priced at $380,000, the Confidence sells for $280,000, and the Assurance costs $180,000.
ETD Taking Hold
Further building on its electron-transfer dissociation technology, Thermo Fisher Scientific released its LTQ Orbitrap XL ETD at the conference, and added the MALDI LTQ Orbitrap series of mass specs to its portfolio.
Since introducing its LTQ XL linear ion trap mass spec with ETD in 2006, Thermo Fisher has been working to develop other instruments with ETD capability, and the research community has been anticipating the LTQ Orbitrap XL ETD for several months, according to Ian Jardine, vice president of global research and development for Thermo Fisher. Combining the Orbitrap and ETD capability increases the sequence coverage several-fold over just an LC-MS/MS run with collision-induced dissociation, he said.
Although doing ETD on the LTQ XL by itself increases coverage for a complex mixture of peptides about three-fold, when an enzyme other than trypsin is used, the resulting peptides have large multiple-charged ions, and when they fragment, the complexity of the fragment spectrum becomes very large, Jardine said.
But “if you put that same complexity into the Orbitrap … it analyzes all of the ions at part-per-million mass accuracy, and it makes the interpretation of these very complex spectra very straightforward,” Jardine said. “So there is a very specific reason why putting ETD on the Orbitrap ups the information content and the amount of sequence that one can actually get from an LC-MS/MS experiment.”

“So there is a very specific reason why putting ETD on the Orbitrap ups the information content and the amount of sequence that one can actually get from an LC-MS/MS experiment.”

ThermoFisher said that the MALDI LTQ Orbitrap is the first MALDI instrument with resolution greater than 50,000 FWHM and with mass accuracy of 1 ppm to 2 ppm that is “routinely” available for MS, tandem mass-spec, and MSn data.
“For many years, the main analytical technique for MALDI has been time-of-flight, which has served MALDI very well,” Jardine said. “But a couple of problems with TOF/TOF are, one, it’s not a very high-resolution selection of the ions that you have on the device to fragment.
“The second thing is when you do the TOF/TOF experiment, the MS/MS experiment in the TOF/TOF is not at the same resolution as the MS experiment. The resolution falls off quite dramatically … and the mass accuracy is not as good as on an MS MALDI.
“The Orbitrap is completely different because it’s the same Orbitrap … you’re not degrading the performance by doing the MS/MS experiment, therefore the data, just like the MS data is at 50,000 to 100,000 resolution and it’s 2 ppm or better, “ he said.
Thermo Fisher also introduced the MALDI LTQ XL mass spec with ImageQuest software, which the company said allows for easier analysis of whole tissue, biological, and polymer samples without extensive sample preparation.
The addition of MALDI to the LTQ XL linear ion trap provides spectra rich with information for the analysis of proteins, peptides, and post-translational modifications, Thermo Fisher said.
Thermo Fisher was not the only vendor to launch a new mass spec with ETD capability this week. Bruker, now made up of the former Bruker BioSciences and Bruker BioSpin, launched five mass specs at Pittcon, including two specifically targeted for proteomics research.
Bruker’s HCT-Ultra high capacity ion trap comes with ETD II, which the company calls “a next generation ETC module.”
The instrument has an m/z range of 3,000 and a mass resolution that can resolve 3+ and 4+ charge states on peptides on the fly. As a result, it can be used to analyze proteins up to 12kiloDaltons with sensitivity at the femtomole and even subfemtomole level, Bruker CEO Frank Laukien said at the meeting.
The company also introduced its next-generation Qq-TOF instrument, the micrOTOF-QII mass spec. It offers Bruker’s proprietary SmartFormula 3D method for automated, routine molecular sum formula determination, and is compatible with fast LC systems, offering specifications of mass resolution greater than 17,500 on up to 20 spectra per second.
500 and Counting
Agilent Technologies used Pittcon to launch the 6410B triple-quadrupole mass spec, which features a polarity-switching scan every 500 microseconds. The instrument is the B version of the 6410 tool that hit the market two years ago, and that represented Agilent’s first foray into the triple-quad space. The company said this week that it has recently sold the 500th unit of the 6410.
The 6410B doubles the number of multiple reaction monitoring scan that can be performed in a given time segment and increases the number of MRMs per method to more than 10,000.
Agilent also introduced new automated method optimization software for the 6410B. The new program selects the best ion transitions for a panel of analytes introduced by infusion, direct injection, or chromatographic injection.
The ultra-high resolution of 1 million and mass accuracy of less than 0.5 ppm provide detailed information to researchers. Available field strengths include 7, 9.4, 12, and 15 Tesla. The magnets are available in both conventional and zero boil-off design, Agilent said.
Finally, Varian launched the 920-MS Triple Quadrupole Fourier Transform Mass Spectrometer, available with both liquid chromatography and gas chromatography interfaces for ionization.

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