Proteomics Platform: collaborating with mass spectrometry experts
Proteomics is the study of the composition of proteins in cells and tissues. Since proteins are responsible for many of the functions of cells, proteomics can give an insight into molecular processes and their regulation. Identifying the proteins in tissues, either in total or in a particular protein subset, requires machines called mass spectrometers. These pieces of scientific equipment are expensive and require specialist knowledge to operate, so are not readily available to most labs.
The Proteomics Platform aims to overcome these challenges by establishing collaborations with UK-based mass spectrometry experts. These labs will perform the techniques on samples from UK DRI researchers, who otherwise would not be able to perform mass spectrometry-based proteomics analyses. Two labs at the University of Dundee are part of this research partnership: Prof Dario Alessi, at the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit (MRC-PPU), and Douglas Lamont, at the FingerPrints Proteomics Facility. In addition to cutting-edge instruments, these labs have decades of experience at applying mass spectrometry to biological samples, so are ideal partners for the UK DRI in proteomics. Dr Bethany Geary, experienced with mass spectrometry and a bioinformatics expert, will be the lead scientist responsible for the management of the Proteomics Platform. Collaborations have also been established with other UK-based mass spectrometry experts to increase the variety of proteomics specialisms available.
Prof Dario Alessi, Director of the MRC-PPU at the University of Dundee, said:
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate and offer UK DRI researchers access to our MRC-PPU Units mass spectrometry platforms. Mass spectrometry is the go-to method to study how disease processes, mutations, inhibitors and other perturbations impact protein expression and post-translational modification, and it can provide important molecular insights of relevance to better understand neurodegenerative diseases.”
Dr Megan Torvell (UK DRI at Cardiff) is an early career researcher who has been awarded funding from the Proteomics Platform to investigate regional and progressive protein changes in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease in collaboration with proteomics expert Dr Richard Unwin (University of Manchester). This project will seek to help answer why some brain regions undergo neurodegeneration during Alzheimer’s disease, while others are spared.
Speaking on the aims of this proteomics study and how it will benefit her as an early career researcher, Dr Torvell said:
“This project will identify early pathway perturbations, which will point towards potentially reversible targets. The data generated here will provide a strong evidence base and clear rationale for future studies and, in doing so, will be pivotal for my career progression as I apply for fellowships and transition to independence.”
The full list of researchers that have been awarded funding through the Proteomics Platform, and their proteomics collaborators, are:
Identifying protective proteomics changes in frontotemporal dementia/ amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Prof Adrian Isaacs (UK DRI at UCL) in collaboration with Prof Dario Alessi (MRC-PPU at the University of Dundee)
Identifying microglial proteins that modulate disease-associated cell states: Dr Alexi Nott (UK DRI at Imperial) in collaboration with Dr Harry Whitwell (Imperial)
Discovering brain cell proteome changes during mouse aging: Dr Blanca Díaz-Castro (UK DRI at Edinburgh) in collaboration with Prof Dario Alessi (MRC-PPU at the University of Dundee)
Developing a high throughput proteomic assay for dementia research: Dr Brenan Durainayagam (UK DRI at Imperial) in collaboration with Dr Harry Whitwell (Imperial)
Single-cell proteomics profiling of vulnerable neurons in Alzheimer’s disease: Dr Martha Foiani (UK DRI at UCL) in collaboration with Prof Dario Alessi (MRC-PPU at the University of Dundee)
Determining protein expression changes in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease: Dr Megan Torvell (UK DRI at Cardiff) in collaboration with Dr Richard Unwin (University of Manchester)
Identifying synaptic targets of complement: Dr Soyon Hong (UK DRI at UCL) in collaboration with Prof Dario Alessi (MRC-PPU at the University of Dundee)
Studying pathological tau filaments through proteomic analysis: Dr Taxiarchis Katsinelos (UK DRI at Cambridge) in collaboration with Douglas Lamont (FingerPrints Proteomics Facility)