Jianjun Li talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Moving Front in the field of Pharmacology
Article: Application of capillary electrophoresis
mass spectrometry to the characterization of bacterial
Authors: Li, JJ;Richards, JC
Journal: MASS SPECTROM REV, 26 (1): 35-50 JAN-FEB
Addresses: Natl Res Council Canada, Inst Biol Sci, 100
Sussex Dr, Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6, Canada.
Natl Res Council Canada, Inst Biol Sci, Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6,
Why do you think your paper is highly
Mass spectrometry has been widely used in the analysis of biomolecules,
such as mass spectrometry-based approaches for proteomics, lipidomics,
glycomics, and metabonomics. Coupling of capillary electrophoresis to a
mass spectrometry instrument (CE-MS) provides a highly sensitive and
powerful technique for analytical chemistry. Since 2004, the journal
Electrophoresis has been published a special issue dedicated to
CE-MS each year. As pointed out by Phillipe Schmitt-Kopplin in the
editorial of 2009 special issue, CE-MS has become an essential
bioanalytical tool in the fields of life, pharmaceutical, food,
environmental, and forensic sciences, etc. It is orthogonal and
complementary to many analytical approaches needed in modern system-based
biology/(Electrophoresis 30: 1609, 2009).
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
"Our organization has an ongoing
program of research aims at the development
of vaccines against bacterial
This article demonstrated the merit of CE-MS in bacterial glycome
researches, due to its high sensitivity and small sample size. For example,
this technique has been successfully applied to characterizing the
bacterial carbohydrates from an ex vivo source.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
When human are infected by bacteria, the host will activate their innate
immune system to battle the infections, e.g., produce antibodies. The main
target of the antibodies against bacterial infection is bacterial surface
polysaccharides. In order to understand antigenic and immunogenic
properties of bacterial polysaccharides, it is important to delineate their
precise chemical structure in vivo, to aim at the development of
effective immunotherapeutic intervention strategies.
How did you become involved in this research and
were any particular problems encountered along the way?
Our organization has an ongoing program of research dedicated to the
development of vaccines against bacterial infections. One of our approaches
is to fully characterize the bacterial surface carbohydrates, to design and
synthesize glycoconjugates which chemically mimic the structure of
bacterial antigens in their surface. However, bacteria constantly change
their surface decoration to escape the host immune system, due to the phase
variation, a mechanism responsible for expressing or not expressing some
Where do you see your research leading in the
I expect that the technique, with further improvement in CE system and mass
spectrometry, will play an important role in the development vaccines for
bacteriology. Additionally, it can be employed as a complementary tool for
bacterial identification and characterization.
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
I believe that this technique has social implications due to its
application for vaccine development and, potentially, bacterial
Jianjun Li, Ph.D.
Senior Research Officer
Institute for Biological Sciences
National Research Council Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada