Structural MS Pulls Its Weight

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Science  31 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6136, pp. 1059-1060
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236303

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When we step on the scale, we usually respond in one of two ways: disappointment or joy. When we measure the mass of protein assemblies, on the other hand, we get a glimpse into a rich and interesting world. A simple measure of mass can give information on the inherent properties of protein complexes and expose a multiprotein assembly's composition, the number of copies of each subunit, their topological arrangement, and the assembly's overall structure (1, 2) (see the figure). These capabilities, together with the modest sample requirements, speed of analysis, selectivity, tolerance to heterogeneity, and lack of an upper mass limit, have transformed structural mass spectrometry (MS) from an emerging technique to an integral part of the structural biology toolkit.