Bruker Daltonics showcases innovative mass spectrometry method and new robotics workstation for proteomics research

Philadelphia 29 July 2001Bruker Daltonics, a developer and provider of innovative life science tools based on mass spectrometry, has introduced the new UltraFlex TOF/TOF system for ultra-sensitive high-throughput proteomics at the 15th Symposium of the Protein Society. The UltraFlexTOF/TOF is expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year, and will be priced at $575.000. The UltraFlexTOF/TOF is a patented MALDI tandem time-of-flight (TOF/TOF) mass spectrometer specifically designed for the highest sensitivity and minimal sample consumption. The UltraFlexTOF/TOF enables very high-throughput protein identification by MALDI-TOF peptide mass fingerprinting, immediately followed on the same AnchorChip MALDI target by more detailed MS/MS protein characterisation. This should dramatically increase the throughput of protein identification and characterisation.


The innovative UltraFlexTOF/TOF requires typically only 50-100 laser shots per MS/MS spectrum, and therefore consumes very little sample. For example, the UltraFlexTOF/TOF can measure an MS/MS spectrum from 500 attomol of a peptide with only 50 shots, resulting in comprehensive fragment ion coverage from low mass immonium ions all the way to the precursor ion. Alternative MALDI-TOF/TOF designs appear to take several thousand shots for each MS/MS spectrum, thus requiring tens of thousands of shots for a typical 10-20 MS/MS spectra per sample.

It is estimated that for realistic tryptic peptide samples from gels, the UltraFlexTOF/TOF can acquire 10-20 MS/MS spectra from 5-10 femtomol of sample present on the MALDI target (not sample consumed!) in just a few minutes total. The UltraFlexTOF/TOF benefits from Bruker Daltonics Inc.'s expertise in high-throughput MALDI-TOF technology aimed at industrial biology. The MALDI targets have industry-standard microtitre plate (MTP) format, and are thus easily compatible with standard sample preparation robots. An optional robot is available for automated delivery of additional MTP MALDI targets into the UltraFlexTOF/TOF for unattended 24/7 operation.

The high-throughput ruggedised xy-table, which has been developed for the autoflex MALDI-TOF product for measurements of up to 30.000 SNP samples per day, has also been implemented in the UltraFlexTOF/TOF. This unique xy-table can move from target spot to target spot in 0,4 seconds in reliable 24/7 operation with unsurpassed positional accuracy. The new UltraFlexTOF/TOF electronics enables automated system self-testing, as well as remote diagnostics and service.

The UltraFlexTOF/TOF fully incorporates the company's proprietary AnchorChip technology, which improves MALDI-TOF sensitivity typically by 1-2 orders of magnitude. AnchorChips also have the additional throughput advantage that they "anchor" the exact sample location and size on the target for robust and fast automation without time-consuming searches for samples or "sweet spots".

Importantly, the UltraFlexTOF/TOF also offers uncompromised standard MALDI-TOF MS performance. In fact, it has the same sub-femtomol sensitivity and same resolution (more than 25.000) as the high-performance reflexIV MALDI-TOF system, which owes its superior sensitivity to a completely gridless ion source and patented gridless reflector design.

"We believe that our UltraFlexTOF/TOF has unsurpassed sensitivity and throughput, both of which are absolutely essential in industrial-scale proteomics", commented Dr. Frank H. Laukien, President and CEO. "We expect that with only about 100 laser shots per precursor peptide, we can do MALDI-TOF/TOF analysis on dozens of tryptic peptides per gel spot without running out of precious protein sample. Simply put, we believe we have the best available technology for a dramatic acceleration of protein identification and characterisation."

At the Protein Society Symposium, Bruker Daltonics also introduced Proteineer DP Digest and Prep station, a new gel spot digestion robotics workstation for proteomics. The Proteineer DP Digest and Prep station completes the Proteineer suite, an integrated comprehensive solution for protein identification and characterisation after 1d- or 2d- gel electrophoresis separation. It complements the previously introduced Proteineer SP Spot Picker robotics workstation for imaging of gels, visual analysis, spot selection, and cutting spots out of 2D gels used for protein separations.

The Proteineer DP automates and simplifies some of the remaining tasks in sample preparation prior to MALDI-TOF or ESI-ion trap analysis of proteins. Proteineer DP is based on the company's successful map II/8 MALDI AutoPrep system, and adds an automated station for tryptic digestion of protein spots cut from gels. The resulting tryptic peptide samples are automatically cleaned up for optimal results prior to MALDI-TOF or ESI-ion trap analysis.

After clean-up, the digest samples are automatically deposited on the AnchorChip targets for ultra-sensitive MALDI-TOF analysis, or the samples are prepared in 96 or 384-well plates for subsequent analysis by the esquire3000plus ion traps. The Proteineer suite of consumables, robotics, mass spectrometry systems, and bioinformatics modules for proteomics offers the unique combination of the two most powerful mass spectrometry methods for protein identification and characterisation: MALDI-TOF and ESI-ion trap mass spectrometry.

Specifically, Proteineer offers an integrated solution for adaptive intelligent acquisitions strategies in protein identification and characterisation. The ultra-high throughput MALDI-TOF systems forms the first very high-throughput protein identification step. Optionally, the new UltraFlexTOF/TOF for high-throughput MS/MS is the second step for protein characterisation.

Robust high-performance ion trap ESI/MSn includes the third step for the most detailed protein characterisation, such as the determination and localisation of post-translational modifications, increased sequence coverage, identification of proteins in complex mixtures, and protein quantitation. Finally, ProteinScape is the bioinformatics software package for comprehensive proteomics data warehousing, and analysis of all the data generated in the entire Proteineer work flow.

Leslie Versweyveld

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