Professor Julie Leary, University of California-Davis

When the new Waters Corporation Facility for Advanced and Integrated Mass Spectrometry opened on the campus of the UC Davis, it was located, appropriately, within Dr. Julie Leary’s laboratory.

Recipient of the Biemann Medal from the American Society of Mass Spectrometry, co-author of multiple peer publication articles, and possessor of a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Prof. Leary’s use of mass spectrometry to study biological and chemical systems, particularly how certain bacteria and viruses affect host organisms, has advanced the scientific community’s understanding of infectious diseases.

Together with her fellow collaborators at UC Davis as well as scientists from UC Berkeley and Stanford University, Prof. Leary is using the Waters laboratory to study eukaryotic translation, the process by which messenger RNA is translated into proteins within the human 40S ribosome. Commensurate with this, is her investigation into protein: carbohydrate interactions as it pertains to inflammation, another biological component to infection.

The goal is to better understand how infectious diseases like hepatitis C and Tuberculosis are transferred to humans.

The new lab is measuring the eukaryotic initiation factor, an intact 13 protein complex from human tumor cells used to study protein translation. Dr. Leary and her team are investigating how the individual protein subunits conform as they come off the intact complex. Because biological molecules are dynamic and ever-changing, they present the university scientists with a challenge when trying to fully characterize or describe them. The hope is that by tackling the issue of molecular shape during eukaryotic translation, they can better understand the process and in turn persuade others to develop effective treatment options.

At the center of Prof. Leary’s new laboratory is the Waters SYNAPT® High Definition MS (HDMS™) System, the world's only MS system to integrate high performance ion mobility separation within a high resolution mass spectrometer to enable characterization of samples based on size, shape and charge, as well as mass.

Key to our current research is to understand the shape of large, complex proteins as they come in contact with each other and with messenger RNA," notes Prof. Leary. "Are these proteins folded or are they elongated? What is the topography of the complex? Today, more than ever, I think important answers are near.”

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