Kavli Director's New Publication Demonstrates That Native MS Can Be Used to Reconnect the Two Drivers of Pharmacology, Binding & Function

Cover Photo of the publication

We are delighted to announce that today, our Director Professor Dame Carol Robinson and her team's new publication is published in Nature Chemistry.


In this publication, the authors demonstrate how native MS can be used to investigate the pharmacology of GPCRs using β1AR as a model system. Being able to combine the sensitivity and near atomic mass resolution of the mass spectrometer, whilst preserving the receptor-G protein interactions, allowed the authors to monitor, with high sensitivity, the full spectrum of receptor pharmacology in vitro. Due to mass differences between different G proteins, the authors were also able to distinguish if a ligand is able to promote biased signalling towards a specific pathway.


The authors also discovered an endogenous zinc molecule that associated with the receptor. This cation was shown to be a positive allosteric modulator of β1AR and demonstrates the potential for native MS to uncover novel insights that may be important for drug discovery. As an example, the regulation of zinc binding or mimicking its mechanism with a small molecule may provide a new avenue for modulating the kinetics or signalling of β1AR for therapeutic purposes. 


These examples highlight two key benefits of utilizing native MS within drug discovery, namely, reconnecting the two fundamental drivers of pharmacology, binding and function;and interrogation of a native ecosystem with high precision.





Black and White headshot picture of Professor Dame Carol Robinson

Professor Dame Carol Robinson said:

Our findings demonstrate that native MS can be used to reconnect the two fundamental drivers of pharmacology, binding and function.

From a practical viewpoint GPCRs had represented a major challenge for native MS. Overcoming these difficulties has allowed us to monitor attenuated G-protein coupling,driven by a wide range of ligands, highlighting the sensitivity and robustness of our approach. 

I am also delighted that despite the fact that β1AR is a well-studied receptor, we were able to find a previously unknown endogenous zinc molecule associated with the receptor, which could have implications for the design of new allosteric modulators.


Since April 2021, Oxford University's KAVLI Institute for Nanoscience Discovery is proudly serving as a hub for research groups from seven different departments spanning both the medical and physical sciences, including Professor Dame Carol Robinson's Group from the Department of Chemistry.