In situ mass spectrometry analysis of intact proteins and protein complexes from biological substrates

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Advances in sample preparation, ion sources and mass spectrometer technology have enabled the detection and characterisation of intact proteins. The challenges associated include an appropriately soft ionisation event, efficient transmission and detection of the often delicate macromolecules. Ambient ion sources, in particular, offer a wealth of strategies for analysis of proteins from solution environments, and directly from biological substrates. The last two decades have seen rapid development in this area. Innovations include liquid extraction surface analysis, desorption electrospray ionisation and nanospray desorption electrospray ionisation. Similarly, developments in native mass spectrometry allow protein–protein and protein–ligand complexes to be ionised and analysed. Identification and characterisation of these large ions involves a suite of hyphenated mass spectrometry techniques, often including the coupling of ion mobility spectrometry and fragmentation techniques. The latter include collision, electron and photon-induced methods, each with their own characteristics and benefits for intact protein identification. In this review, recent developments for in situ protein analysis are explored, with a focus on ion sources and tandem mass spectrometry techniques used for identification.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberBST20190793
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2020


  • ambient, in situ, mass spectrometry, native, protein