Over the last 20 years, biological MS has changed out of all recognition. This is primarily due to the development in the 1980s of ‘soft ionization’ methods that permit the ionization and vaporization of large, polar, and thermally labile biomolecules. These developments in ionization mode have driven the design and manufacture of smaller and cheaper mass analysers, making the mass spectrometer a routine instrument in the biochemistry laboratory today. In the present review the revolutionary ‘soft ionization’ methods will be discussed with particular reference to electrospray. The mass analysis of ions will be described, and the concept of tandem MS introduced. Where appropriate, examples of the application of MS in biochemistry will be provided. Although the present review will concentrate on the MS of peptides/proteins and lipids, all classes of biomolecules can be analysed, and much excellent work has been done in the fields of carbohydrate and nucleic acid biochemistry.

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