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Toxicon. 2006 May;47(6):609-13. Epub 2006 Mar 10.

Mass spectrometry in toxinology: a 21st-century technology for the study of biopolymers from venoms.


Mass spectrometry, developed in the early days of the 20th century for the structural analysis of ions from organic compounds, has evolved from an analytical technique almost entirely applied to structural studies of small molecules, to a diversified technology that is now increasingly focused on the study of biological macromolecules. Novel instrument developments and appropriate ionization techniques have permitted the application of mass spectrometry to the analysis of biopolymers such as proteins, sugars and nucleic acids and have opened the door to a multiplicity of applications, and not the least being proteomics. Increasingly used as a basic analytical tool in biology laboratories, mass spectrometry has now found another niche of application in the field of venom and toxin studies. The technique is well suited to the analysis of peptide and protein components of venoms, be it for global mass mapping of complex mixtures or structural studies on individual toxins. Further enhanced by hyphenation with separation technologies, mass spectrometry is well adapted to de-convolve the extreme complexity of natural venoms and biological extracts in which toxinologists specialize. This special issue highlights a number of applications of mass spectrometry in this field and presents some of the most recent work illustrating the benefits of various state-of-the-art mass spectrometry technologies for the study of animal venoms and toxins.

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