In 2015 the LBMSDG connected with the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Separation Science Group and we were pleased to announce that the best student talk in 2016 also carried a £400 prize! The winner of this years prize was formally announced at the March meeting as Heidi Gastall, a recent PhD graduate from Oxford University. Below is a short overview from Heidi herself on the work she presented at the LBMSDG and her thoughts on being presented the award.

“During the meeting of the LBMSDG on 29th September 2016, I presented how I had applied mass spectrometry (MS) in my doctoral research on small heat shock protein 27 (HSP27). This protein protects the cell under stress by interacting with partially folded protein substrates, and is implicated in a wide range of diseases from Parkinson’s to cancer. It forms highly dynamic and heterogeneous complexes which can be interrogated within the gas phase. Here native MS was used as part of a multi-pronged approach including protein crystallography, ion-mobility MS, molecular dynamics simulations and solution-state NMR to probe the conformations of the HSP27 core domain and measure the effect of an unusual disulphide bond which is formed across the central interface. We found that this bond can act as a ‘redox switch’ and so modulate the dynamics and protective response of the protein. In my talk, I described how monomer exchange was monitored with MS and quantified the effect of the disulphide bond on the exchange kinetics. Native MS demonstrated the influence of disease-related mutations on the strength of this bond, and ion mobility MS was employed to look for conformational change on mutation following observations in the structural model from crystallography. Finally, native MS was used to follow binding competition between different parts of the protein to delineate the effect of modification on protein association. In summary, MS was a key player within a range of complementary structural biology techniques and provided essential insight on the regulation of an important stress-responsive protein.

I have enjoyed sharing my results with the LBMSDG and hearing about the research of other members – our common interest in the development and application of MS offers wider insight on the research topics we discuss and exposure to some of the many ways in which MS is deepening understanding in the life sciences. This award allowed me to attend the first International Conference on Hydrogen Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry (HDX-MS) in Sweden. The conference involved a users’ workshop and two days of presentations on the development and application of HDX-MS, including to protein folding and association, conformational fluctuation, epitope mapping and the interrogation of biotherapeutics. As a new user of HDX-MS, the conference gave a very helpful overview of how the technique is applied by different practitioners in the community and technical advice on how to use it to its full potential. Thank you to both the LBMSDG and the RSC SSG for presenting me with this award and organising its administration, and thus making it possible for me to attend the conference.”

A picture of Heidi accepting the award is also available HERE