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Chemical biology applies chemical methods, among them mass spectrometry, to solve biological problems. Although a description of the history of chemical methods in biology, finally leading to the establishment of mass spectrometry as a routine biochemical technique, cannot be given in a single chapter, we present selected discoveries, which, by demanding exact molecular mass measurements, have paved the way for biological mass spectrometry. We describe the discovery of vitamins D and E as an example of early chemical biology work. We highlight the development and application of chromatography, which became an essential auxiliary to mass spectrometry, and the role of this technology in the discovery of prostaglandins and pheromones. We briefly discuss the evolution of MSs, which enabled the analysis of organic molecules, and also show how interest in the mass spectrometry analysis of proteins led to the development of electrospray ionization (ESI), which has become the most popular ion source and has permitted the hyphenation of MSs to chromatography. We use the mechanism of developmental regulation in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans with small molecules as an example of an elegant study in the field of chemical biology, in which mass spectrometry has played a crucial role.

Publication details

Print publication date
22 Nov 2017
Copyright year
Print ISBN
ePub eISBN
From the book series:
Chemical Biology