Reveal Molecular Secrets – and Set Them to Work!

By June 23, 2020

From fundamental research to routine analysis, Waters’ latest innovations in mass spectrometry enable our customers to gain – and apply – insights across the scientific spectrum.


Beginning with fundamental research where the focus is on unraveling molecular complexity, new enhancements to the SELECT SERIES™ Cyclic IMS now support a combination of fragmentation and imaging strategies with advanced ion mobility capabilities. Ion mobility separates molecules by size and shape as well as m/z. Cyclic IMS enables researchers to scale mobility resolution to match the complexity of their samples and performs unique IMSn experiments (e.g. selecting an ion by IMS, fragmenting the ion, selecting a particular fragment by IMS and repeating the process) that can reveal structural information that may never have been seen before.

The combination of Electron Capture Dissociation (ECD) together with the more widely used Collision Induced Dissociation (CID), greatly enhances scientists’ toolset for the analysis of complex biomolecules. ECD generally preserves the position of labile post-translational modifications and provides great sequence coverage for proteins and peptides.

No less illuminating than structural characterization is knowledge about spatial localization. Following the time-honored truism that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, molecular maps can be generated using Desorption Electrospray Ionization (DESI) – uniquely available on Waters’ mass spectrometry systems. DESI XS is applicable to a broad range of different sample and surface types. Experiments can vary from tissue imaging in biomedical research and DMPK, through screening metabolites in bacterial colonies, to identifying fingerprints of different individuals taken directly from a surface and the examination of cross-sections of natural products like roots and tubers.

The new capabilities on the powerful Cyclic IMS platform contribute – through the elucidation of sequence, structure and spatial distribution – to a deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms of action.

A high spatial resolution DESI-MS image of lipid species present in a sagittal mouse brain section

Molecular visualization is even more comprehensive on Waters’ discovery platform, the SYNAPT XS. Using DESI XS with complementary (optional) MALDI ionization maximizes the number and type of species whose distribution can be determined.

Retaining high resolution imaging on a more accessible bench-top system, the Xevo G2-XS QTof also offers DESI XS technology; it not only accurately identifies  drug metabolites , for example, it can map their distribution across a tissue surface, giving scientists another dimension of information for developing the next generation of therapeutics.

For routine analysis – where a molecule’s characteristics have already been determined – the Xevo TQ-XS and TQ-S micro come into play. As a result of a collaboration with the University of Washington’s Professor of Genome Sciences, Mike MacCoss and his colleagues, SkyLine software is now closely integrated with Waters MassLynx.

The sensitivity of the Xevo TQ series combined with the industry standard Skyline software ensures that scientists in biomedical research or in pre-clinical bioanalysis in the pharmaceutical industry can routinely and accurately determine the quantity of their target molecules when developing peptide or protein-based therapeutics. The new MassLynx/Skyline interface enables a seamless workflow between the MS acquisition software and the industry standard for peptide MRM optimization, simplifying method development to help identify more specific biomarkers and accelerate the discovery and pre-clinical testing of new biotherapeutic molecules.

This is just one example of how partnering with leading third-party software providers expands the utility of Waters’ systems and how innovations in mass spectrometry continue to drive innovation in scientific R&D and generate insights to address tomorrow’s challenges.