A Key to Disease Research: Post-Translational Modifications

Scientists who study diseases are increasingly looking at post-translational modifications in proteins.

What are these?  Let’s take a step back and define some terms.

Proteins are large biomolecules made from chains of amino acids.  Proteins perform a variety of functions in your body: they transport other molecules around, and they manage your DNA replication.

(Just as genomics is the study of your genome, proteomics is the study of your proteins.)

A protein’s specific function is determined by its structure.  And a protein changes its structure through post-translational modification.  PTMs occur when enzymes trigger chemical changes.

What does this have to do with disease?  When a pathogen attacks your body’s cells, it will often hijack the enzymes behind PTMs, which can degrade your proteins.  The HIV virus is an example of this.

“Protein PTMs are emerging as important biomarkers for disease states, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders,” says Agilent’s Shweta Shukradas.

Scientists who study proteins and PTMs require extremely sophisticated analytical techniques to study these cellular-level signals.

“Dynamic range and sensitivity pose a critical challenge to the accurate quantitation of PTMs,” Shweta says.  “Proteins span a wide range of concentrations as they are naturally expressed.”

Agilent offers a variety of comprehensive workflow solutions for proteomics, from identification and characterization of PTMs to biomarker discovery and quantitation.

Discovery proteomics involves the identification of proteins without any prior knowledge of what they may be.  Agilent’s solution includes an Agilent LC/Q-TOF, MassHunter software and Spectrum Mill software.

Targeted proteomics involves the confirmation of proteins based on prior knowledge.  Agilent’s solution includes an Agilent LC/QQQ, MassHunter software, and Spectrum Mill and Skyline software.

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