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Concept: Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization


BACKGROUND: For shotgun mass spectrometry based proteomics the most computationally expensive step is in matching the spectra against an increasingly large database of sequences and their post-translational modifications with known masses. Each mass spectrometer can generate data at an astonishingly high rate, and the scope of what is searched for is continually increasing. Therefore solutions for improving our ability to perform these searches are needed. RESULTS: We present a sequence database search engine that is specifically designed to run efficiently on the Hadoop MapReduce distributed computing framework. The search engine implements the K-score algorithm, generating comparable output for the same input files as the original implementation. The scalability of the system is shown, and the architecture required for the development of such distributed processing is discussed. CONCLUSION: The software is scalable in its ability to handle a large peptide database, numerous modifications and large numbers of spectra. Performance scales with the number of processors in the cluster, allowing throughput to expand with the available resources.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Phosphorylation, Search engine optimization, Computer science, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Peer-to-peer, Hadoop, Distributed computing


BACKGROUND: Hydroxycinnamates (HCs) are mainly produced in plants. Caffeic acid (CA), p-coumaric acid (PA), ferulic acid (FA) and sinapic acid (SA) are members of the HC family. The consumption of HC by human might prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. The solubility of HCs is increased through thioester conjugation to various compounds such as quinic acid, shikimic acid, malic acid, anthranilic acid, and glycerol. Although hydroxycinnamate conjugates can be obtained from diverse plant sources such as coffee, tomato, potato, apple, and sweet potato, some parts of the world have limited availability to these compounds. Thus, there is growing interest in producing HC conjugates as nutraceutical supplements. RESULTS: Hydroxycinnamoyl transferases (HCTs) including hydroxycinnamate-CoA shikimate transferase (HST) and hydroxycinnamate-CoA quinate transferase (HQT) were co-expressed with 4-coumarateCoA:ligase (4CL) in Escherichia coli cultured in media supplemented with HCs. Two hydroxycinnamoyl conjugates, p-coumaroyl shikimates and chlorogenic acid, were thereby synthesized. Total 29.1 mg/L of four different p-coumaroyl shikimates (3-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 4-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 3,4-di p-coumaroyl shikimate, 3,5-di p-coumaroyl shikimate, and 4,5-di p-coumaroyl shikimate) was obtained and 16 mg/L of chlorogenic acid was synthesized in the wild type E. coli strain. To increase the concentration of endogenous acceptor substrates such as shikimate and quinate, the shikimate pathway in E. coli was engineered. A E. coli aroL and aroK gene were mutated and the resulting mutants were used for the production of p-coumaroyl shikimate. An E. coli aroD mutant was used for the production of chlorogenic acid. We also optimized the vector and cell concentration optimization. CONCLUSIONS: To produce p-coumaroyl-shikimates and chlorogenic acid in E. coli, several E. coli mutants (an aroD mutant for chlorogenic acid production; an aroL, aroK, and aroKL mutant for p-coumaroyl-shikimates production) were made and each mutant was tested using an optimized construct. Using this strategy, we produced 235 mg/L of p-coumaroyl-shikimates and 450 mg/L of chlorogenic acid.

Concepts: Escherichia coli, Caffeic acid, Carboxylic acids, Ferulic acid, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Chlorogenic acid, Quinic acid, Cyclitols


Milk and cheese are expensive foodstuffs, and their consumption is spread among the population because of their high nutritional value; for this reason they are often subjected to adulterations. Among the common illegal practices, the addition of powdered derivatives seems very difficult to detect because the adulterant materials have almost the same chemical composition of liquid milk. However, the high temperatures (180-200 °C) used for milk powder production could imply the occurrence of some protein modifications (e.g., glycation, lactosylation, oxidation, deamidation, dehydration). The modified proteins or peptides could then be used as markers for the presence of powdered milk. In this work, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) was employed to analyze tryptic digests relevant to samples of raw liquid (without heat treatment), commercial liquid, and powdered cow’s milk. Samples were subjected to two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE); differences among liquid and powder milk were detected at this stage and eventually confirmed by MALDI analysis of the in gel digested proteins. Some diagnostic peptides of powdered milk, attributed to modified whey proteins and/or caseins, were identified. Then, a faster procedure was optimized, consisting of the separation of caseins from milk whey and the subsequent in-solution digestion of the two fractions, with the advantage of obtaining almost the same information in a limited amount of time. Finally, analyses were carried out with the fast procedure on liquid milk samples adulterated with powdered milk at different percentages, and diagnostic peptides were detected down to 1% of adulteration level.

Concepts: Protein, Mass spectrometry, Milk, Gel electrophoresis, In-gel digestion, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, Powdered milk


There is interest in extending bottom-up proteomics to the smallest possible sample size. We investigated the performance of two modern mass spectrometers for the analysis of samples ranging from 1 ng to 1 µg of RAW 264.7 cell lysate digests.

Concepts: Sample, Protein, Cell biology, Proteomics, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Top-down proteomics, Shotgun proteomics, Bottom-up proteomics


From a collection of yeast isolates isolated from patients in Tunisian hospitals between September 2006 and July 2010, the yeast strain JEY63 (CBS 12513), isolated from a 50-year-old male that suffered from oral thrush, could not be identified to the species level using conventional methods used in clinical laboratories. These methods include matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), germ tube formation, and the use of CHROMagar Candida and metabolic galleries. Sequence analysis of the nuclear rRNA (18S rRNA, 5.8S rRNA, and 26S rRNA) and internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS1 and ITS2) indicated that the ribosomal DNA sequences of this species were not yet reported. Multiple gene phylogenic analyses suggested that this isolate clustered at the base of the Dipodascaceae (Saccharomycetales, Saccharomycetes, and Ascomycota). JEY63 was named Candida tunisiensis sp. nov. according to several phenotypic criteria and its geographical origin. C. tunisiensis was able to grow at 42°C and does not form chlamydospores and hyphae but could grow as yeast and pseudohyphal forms. C. tunisiensis exhibited most probably a haploid genome with an estimated size of 10 Mb on at least three chromosomes. Using European Committee for Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST) and Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) Candida albicans susceptibility breakpoints as a reference, C. tunisiensis was resistant to fluconazole (MIC = 8 μg/ml), voriconazole (MIC = 0.5 μg/ml), itraconazole (MIC = 16 μg/ml), and amphotericin B (MIC = 4 μg/ml) but still susceptible to posaconazole (MIC = 0.008 μg/ml) and caspofungin (MIC = 0.5 μg/ml). In conclusion, MALDI-TOF MS permitted the early selection of an unusual isolate, which was still unreported in molecular databases but could not be unambiguously classified based on phylogenetic approaches.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Ribosomal RNA, Yeast, Candida albicans, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Ascomycota, Candidiasis


Candida famata (teleomorph Debaryomyces hansenii) has been described as a medically relevant yeast, and this species has been included in many commercial identification systems that are currently used in clinical laboratories. Among 53 strains collected during the SENTRY and ARTEMIS surveillance programs and previously identified as C. famata (includes all submitted strains with this identification) by a variety of commercial methods (Vitek, MicroScan, API, and AuxaColor), DNA sequencing methods demonstrated that 19 strains were C. guilliermondii, 14 were C. parapsilosis, 5 were C. lusitaniae, 4 were C. albicans, and 3 were C. tropicalis, and five isolates belonged to other Candida species (two C. fermentati and one each C. intermedia, C. pelliculosa, and Pichia fabianni). Additionally, three misidentified C. famata strains were correctly identified as Kodomaea ohmeri, Debaryomyces nepalensis, and Debaryomyces fabryi using intergenic transcribed spacer (ITS) and/or intergenic spacer (IGS) sequencing. The Vitek 2 system identified three isolates with high confidence to be C. famata and another 15 with low confidence between C. famata and C. guilliermondii or C. parapsilosis, displaying only 56.6% agreement with DNA sequencing results. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) results displayed 81.1% agreement with DNA sequencing. One strain each of C. metapsilosis, C. fermentati, and C. intermedia demonstrated a low score for identification (<2.0) in the MALDI Biotyper. K. ohmeri, D. nepalensis, and D. fabryi identified by DNA sequencing in this study were not in the current database for the MALDI Biotyper. These results suggest that the occurrence of C. famata in fungal infections is much lower than previously appreciated and that commercial systems do not produce accurate identifications except for the newly introduced MALDI-TOF instruments.

Concepts: DNA, Mass spectrometry, Yeast, Candida albicans, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Candidiasis, Yeasts


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) is a relatively new imaging modality that allows mapping of a wide range of biomolecules within a thin tissue section. The technology uses a laser beam to directly desorb and ionize molecules from discrete locations on the tissue that are subsequently recorded in a mass spectrometer. IMS is distinguished by the capability to directly measure molecules in situ ranging from small metabolites to proteins, reporting hundreds to thousands of expression patterns from a single imaging experiment. This article reviews recent advances in IMS technology, applications, and experimental strategies that allow it to significantly aid in the discovery and understanding of molecular processes in biological and clinical samples.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Mass spectrometry, Chemistry, Proteomics, Ion source, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, MALDI imaging, Mass spectrometry imaging


The forensic analysis of textile fibers uses a variety of techniques from microscopy to spectroscopy. One such technique that is often used to identify the dye(s) within the fiber is mass spectrometry. In the traditional direct infusion method, the dye must be extracted from the fabric and the dye components separated by chromatography prior to mass spectrometric analysis. Direct analysis of the dye from the fabric allows the omission of the lengthy sample preparation involved in extraction, thereby significantly reducing the overall analysis time. Herein, a direct analysis of dyed textile fabric was performed using the infrared matrix-assisted laser desorption electrospray ionization (IR-MALDESI) source for mass spectrometry (MS). In MALDESI, an IR laser with wavelength tuned to 2.94 µm is used to desorb the dye from the fabric sample with the aid of water as the matrix. The desorbed dye molecules are then post-ionized by electrospray ionization. A variety of dye classes were analyzed from various fabrics with little to no sample preparation allowing for the identification of the dye mass and in some cases the fiber polymer. Those dyes that were not detected using MALDESI were also not observed using the traditional method of direct infusion.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Nylon, Electrospray ionization, Ion source, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Textile, Infrared, Desorption electrospray ionization


A recently developed solvent-free compressed-sample technique for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) analysis allows the reproducible analysis of synthetic polymers and peptides up to 3,500 Da. In this work, we present an improvement in resolution, an increase in intensity and a decrease of the variation coefficient, as illustrated by the analysis of PEG 2000 and MALDI imaging experiments. These advantages were achieved by homogenization of the electrical field, which was disturbed by the drills in the original MALDI target. In order to homogenize the electrical field, a new target with smaller drills was developed, metal powder was added to the matrix/analyte mixture and a round laser raster was used. Furthermore, a ball mill was implemented for the sample preparation to replace the extremely user-dependent grinding in a mortar. The new conditions were successfully applied to the quantification of several peptides of higher molecular weight and gave higher precision than had previously been achieved with the compressed-sample technique.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mass spectrometry, Mass, In-gel digestion, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, MALDI imaging


Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is a relatively new addition to the clinical microbiology laboratory. The performance of the MALDI Biotyper system (Bruker Daltonics) was compared to those of phenotypic and genotypic identification methods for 690 routine and referred clinical isolates representing 102 genera and 225 unique species. We systematically compared direct-smear and extraction methods on a taxonomically diverse collection of isolates. The optimal score thresholds for bacterial identification were determined, and an approach to address multiple divergent results above these thresholds was evaluated. Analysis of identification scores revealed optimal species- and genus-level identification thresholds of 1.9 and 1.7, with 91.9% and 97.0% of isolates correctly identified to species and genus levels, respectively. Not surprisingly, routinely encountered isolates showed higher concordance than did uncommon isolates. The extraction method yielded higher scores than the direct-smear method for 78.3% of isolates. Incorrect species were reported in the top 10 results for 19.4% of isolates, and although there was no obvious cutoff to eliminate all of these ambiguities, a 10% score differential between the top match and additional species may be useful to limit the need for additional testing to reach single-species-level identifications.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Mass spectrometry, Biology, Genus, Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, Bruker