The use of MS for characterization of small molecules, nucleotides, and proteins in model organisms as well as primary tissues and clinical samples continues to proliferate at a rapid pace. The complexity and dynamic range of target analytes in biological systems hinders comprehensive analysis and simultaneously drives improvements in instrument hardware and software. As a result, state-of-the-art commercial mass spectrometers are equipped with sophisticated embedded control systems that provide robust acquisition methods accessed through intuitive graphical interfaces. Although optimized for speed, these preconfigured scan functions are otherwise closed to end-user customization beyond simple, analytical-centric parameters supplied by the manufacturer. Here, we present an open-source framework (mzAPI/Live) that enables users to generate arbitrarily complex LC-MS(n) acquisition methods via simple Python scripting. As a powerful proof-of-concept, we demonstrate real-time assignment of tandem mass spectra through rapid query of NIST peptide libraries. This represents an unprecedented capability to make acquisition decisions based on knowledge of analyte structures determined during the run itself, thus providing a path toward biology-driven MS data acquisition for the broader community.
© 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.