Top-down Mass Spectrometry: Recent Developments, Applications and Perspectives

Analyst. 2011 Oct 7;136(19):3854-64. doi: 10.1039/c1an15286f. Epub 2011 Aug 8.


Top-down mass spectrometry is an emerging approach for the analysis of intact proteins. The term was coined as a contrast with the better-established, bottom-up strategy for analysis of peptide fragments derived from digestion, either enzymatically or chemically, of intact proteins. Although the term top-down originates from proteomics, it can also be applied to mass spectrometric analysis of intact large biomolecules that are constituents of protein assemblies or complexes. Traditionally, mass spectrometry has usually started with intact molecules, and in this regard, top-down approaches reflect the spirit of mass spectrometry. This article provides an overview of the methodologies in top-down mass spectrometry and then reviews applications covering protein posttranslational modifications, protein biophysics, DNAs/RNAs, and protein assemblies. Finally, challenges and future directions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fourier Analysis*
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Nucleic Acids / analysis*
  • Proteins / analysis*


  • Nucleic Acids
  • Proteins