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........ published in NEWSLETTER # 66

by Dr. W. Ens and Dr. K.G. Standing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (Canada) and Dr. I.V. Chernushevich, PE SCIEX, Concord (Canada)

The formation of noncovalent complexes by biomolecules is one of the most important processes in biology. It is intimately involved in such recognition phenomena as enzyme-substrate interaction, receptor-ligand binding, formation of oligomeric proteins, and assembly of transcription complexes, as well as formation of cellular structures themselves.

This volume (NATO ASI SERIES C510) contains papers presented at a conference held at Kananaskis Village/AB (Canada) in June 1996. The main focus of the meeting was on mass spectrometric methods of studying such noncovalent interactions. Mass spectrometry (MS) has very high sensitivity and mass resolution. Because of its unparalleled ability to distinguish species of different molecular masses, it has the power to analyze macromolecular complexes with multiple components in equilibrium. Thus MS can give unique insights into the formation and properties of the complexes, yielding information that is complementary to that obtained by the established methods. The technique can be particularly valuable when the amount of sample is limited. Nevertheless, MS has not been applicable to the investigation of noncovalent complexes until fairly recently, because these entities, often weakly bound, were destroyed during transfer into the gas phase or in the subsequent ionization. This problem has now been greatly alleviated by the development ef electrospray ionization (ESI), a very gentle ionization method. An increasing number of measurements on noncovalent complexes are being carried out using this technique, and in a number of cases ESI has been shown to preserve native structure and higher-order noncovalent interactions. Another relatively new MS technique, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) also shows promise.

In addition to the MS techniques, other emerging methods such as surface plasmon resonance and neutron scattering were discussed, as well as the established methods of X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance.
Reference books: C353, C475, C504, C510, E342

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