Product News: Rapid, Automatic Measurement of Glycan Structures

17 Jun 2011

Shimadzu announces the launch of Accurate Glycan Analyzer (AGA) software for the automatic measurement of glycan structures using trace-level samples. AGA takes advantage of the unique MSn capability of the AXIMA Resonance MALDI quadrupole ion trap TOF mass spectrometer.

Glycans play an important role in medical research; in the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases, and in the development of monoclonal antibodies. Sometimes called “the third chain of life” (after nucleic acids and proteins), glycans are molecules formed by a chain of "sugars" such as glucose.
Approximately 60 % of proteins in organisms exist in the form of bonded glycans. Unlike nucleic acid and proteins, which are largely linear straight chains, glycans are branched, which means that they show extreme diversity of type and structure. While this allows them to perform an important role, for example, in the identification of living things and immunization, it also makes them extremely difficult to analyse. For example, two glycans can have the same molecular weight but different structures. For this reason, despite their importance, the study of glycans has been limited to a few specialists. Now, the combination of a specialist glycan database and the unique AXIMA Resonance is making the study of glycosylation widely accessible for the first time.

The AGA software uses initial MS data to suggest precursor ions then pattern matches the resulting MS/MS spectra against the database of real (not generated theoretically) glycan spectra. If necessary, this process is repeated to MS3 and MS4 until the structure of the glycan is determined.
Due to the sensitivity of the AXIMA Resonance, structural analysis of a glycan can be achieved with nanogram-levels of sample. In addition to being completely automatic, the method is also rapid: full structural identification being achieved in just 7 minutes. This is significantly faster than previous methods.