Drug discovery from natural products using affinity selection-mass spectrometry

Drug Discov Today Technol. 2021 Dec:40:59-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ddtec.2021.10.005. Epub 2021 Oct 21.


As a starting point for drug discovery, affinity selection-mass spectrometry (AS-MS) is ideal for the discovery of lead compounds from chemically diverse sources such as botanical, fungal and microbial extracts. Based on binding interactions between macromolecular receptors and ligands of low molecular mass, AS-MS enables the rapid isolation of pharmacologically active small molecules from complex mixtures for mass spectrometric characterization and identification. Unlike conventional high-throughput screening, AS-MS requires no radiolabels, no UV or fluorescent chromophores, and is compatible with all classes of receptors, enzymes, incubation buffers, cofactors, and ligands. The most successful types of AS-MS include pulsed ultrafiltration (PUF) AS-MS, size exclusion chromatography (SEC) AS-MS, and magnetic microbead affinity selection screening (MagMASS), which differ in their approaches for separating the ligand-receptor complexes from the non-binding compounds in mixtures. After affinity isolation, the ligand(s) from the mixture are characterized using high resolution UHPLC-MS and tandem mass spectrometry. Based on these elemental composition and structural data, the identities of the lead compounds are determined by searching on-line databases for known natural products and by comparison with standards. The structures of novel natural products are determined using a combination of spectroscopic techniques including two-dimensional NMR and MS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products*
  • Drug Discovery
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Mass Spectrometry


  • Biological Products