|Of mice, sex and mass spectrometry
|Prof Robert Beynon
|University of Liverpool
Abstract Information :
In my talk, I will explore how successful collaborations between protein chemists and evolutionary biologists can yield new insights in this area. The biologists bring the big ideas, while the protein chemists find sneaky and novel ways to test their hypotheses, developing a truly interdisciplinary team approach - a model of modern biological research. In my presentation, I will address the considerable role that different mass spectrometric modalities (GC-MS, LC-MS, LC-MS/MS, REIMS-MS) have played in understanding the chemistry and biology of the system.
Most of evolutionary biology and animal behaviour is about sex! Sex is, in part, mediated through proteins and their interactions with other proteins. Thus, the study of proteins involved in topics such as sexual reproduction, sperm competition, mate selection and inbreeding avoidance could provide valuable new insights into the drivers of speciation and evolution. These proteins evolve rapidly and bring problems when working with species for which there is no reliable annotated genome.
To illustrate, mouse urine is unlike normal human urine, particularly in protein content. The obligate proteinuria is considerable (it can exceed 50mg/mL), almost exclusively composed of Major Urinary Proteins (MUPs), 19 kDa beta-barrel lipocalins that are involved in chemical communication between individuals. They play multiple roles, including coding of owner identity and transport/slow release of bound volatile pheromones. The accessibility of the MUPs, the ease with which recombinant MUPs can be made and the ability to 'close the loop' with behavioural studies has greatly increased our understanding of these proteins, driven by detailed mass spectrometric characterisation.