A brief history of mass spectrometry in IOCB

A history of mass spectrometry at IOCB started in the early sixties of the last century when the first mass spectrometer was purchased. Two mass spectrometers MX-1303 were imported from the Soviet Union due to Prof. František Šorm, a former director of IOCB. Both instruments were initially located in the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Praha - Vinohrady. One instrument was operated by Dr. Vladimír Hanuš, the second one by Dr. Ladislav Dolejš from IOCB. In 1967 one MX-1303 has been moved to IOCB in Praha-Dejvice. Under Dr. Dolejš's supervision mass spectra of many compounds of natural as well as synthetic origin were measured. The MX-1303 had a heated-reservoir inlet designed for the analysis of petroleum products; the upper mass limit was ~600 Da with the resolution of 450. The mass spectra were recorded using a strip-chart recorder. The scanning was slow and analyses were sometimes difficult to reproduce. However, mass spectrometry has proven competent for structure elucidation of organic substances. Numerous quality and so far cited publications focused on mass spectrometry of naturally occurring compounds, particularly alkaloids, were published at that time.

Á new mass spectrometer MS902 (Associated Electric Industry) was purchased in 1969. At that time it was probably the best mass spectrometer on the market. This high-resolution double focusing instrument had a maximum resolution of 70 000 and was capable to measure ion masses with accuracy below to 3 ppm. The instrument equipped for electron ionization possessed an inlet for gas chromatograph, though only with packed columns at that time. The GC/MS instrumentation enabled expansion of pheromone chemistry and identification of volatile compounds from plants and insect. The mass spectra were plotted on UV-sensitive paper at three different sensitivities. To make nice-looking spectra for publications, the peak intensities were manually measured using a ruler and processed by one of the first computers in IOCB. MS902 was located in the basement of the IOCB main building, room 3.

Mass spectrometer MS902 operated by Jitka Kohoutová, MSc. Photo © J. Plechatý. [More]

In 1983 Dr. Karel Ubik became the head of the MS Group. Organic mass spectrometry quickly developed. New ionization techniques as well as tandem MS/MS techniques were introduced. To keep pace with quick MS development, ZAB-EQ (VG analytical) sector mass spectrometer was purchased in 1987. Increasing importance of mass spectrometry made the MS group to grow rapidly. Dr. Karel Ubik and his group studied many organic compounds. Numerous natural compounds were identified by mass spectrometry, including volatile compounds, hydrocarbons and terpenes, flavonoids, saponins, steroids, alkaloids, peptides and others. Drugs synthesized in IOCB, including those with incredible biological functions, were studied in his laboratory. The instrument has been in service for 22 years. Analysis of biomolecules soon got into focus. MALDI-TOF spectrometer Reflex IV together with an automatic gel spot picker and digest station Proteineer (all Bruker) was purchased in 2002. The instruments were used for peptide mass fingerprinting as well as for analyzing other compounds.

Dr. Karel Ubik operates mass spectrometer ZAB EQ (1989). Photo © K. Stránský.

The MS group has been headed by Josef Cvačka since 2005. Besides the sector instrument, two LC/MS systems, an ion trap LCQ Classic (Finnigan) and Q-Tof micro (Waters) were available at that time. Both instruments were inherited from the former Department of Natural Products. A new GC/MS with electron ionization and quadrupole analyzer (Agilent 5975B MSD) was acquired in 2006 and set as an open-access instrument. In 2007 the group was reestablished to become a research-service team in a new organization structure of IOCB. Besides the services provided for the local scientific community, an independent research program has been established. As the amount of service and research work quickly increased, a decision was made to replace the old sector instrument. In 2008, a new hybrid FT mass spectrometer LTQ Orbitrap XL (Thermo Fisher Scientific) was purchased and put into operation. The sector instrument ZAB-EQ has been taken out of service about half a year later.

The mass spectrometry instruments have also been used in other IOCB departments. The first benchtop quadrupole GC/MS (MD800, Fisons) appeared in the former Department of Natural Products in 1992. The instrument has mostly been used for studying volatile compounds from insects and plants. It is still in service (upgraded with a new GC) in the research group of Irena Valterová. Four additional GC/MS instruments are located in her laboratories: a single quadrupole DSQ II (Thermo), an ion trap GC/MS Saturn 2000R (Varian), two-dimensional GCxGC/MS Pegasus 4D (Leco), and only recently acquired GC/TOF GCT Premier featuring exact mass measurement capability. Several other GC/MS and LC/MS systems are now used in the IOCB. They are mostly single quadrupole instruments intended for quick checking the organic synthesis products. Several mass spectrometers are used for studying gas-phase chemistry in the group of Detlef Schroeder.

Mass spectrometry in IOCB is continuously being evolved due to the many people involved in research and service measurements. We would like to thank to former members of the MS group. We believe that the following list covers all members of the former MS groups working in IOCB between 1967 and 2005: (in alphabetic order) Ladislav Dolejš, Martin Duszek, Jana Hodačová, Aleš Jirásek, Jaroslav Jirmus, Marta Kabelíková, Milan Kempný, Jitka Kohoutová, Blanka Králová, Ludmila Lišková, Pavla Loudová, Jan Malát, Jana Nezbedová, Ivana Přichystalová, Petra Šlechtická, Lenka Tipková, Antonín Trka, Karel Ubik, Tomáš Vaisar, Milada Vokáčová, and Klaudie Vyčítalová-Bartová.