ASMS News & Views

Oct 29, 2014

Research Award Winner Highlight: Yu Xia

The ASMS annually presents two Research Awards to academic scientists within four years of joining the tenure track faculty or equivalent in a North American university. The purpose of these awards, fully sponsored by Thermo Scientific and Waters Corporation, are to promote academic research by young scientists in mass spectrometry. The award winners for 2013 are Dr. Yu Xia, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University, and Dr. Matthew F. Bush, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Washington. 

In this month’s issue of JASMS, we are pleased to highlight a research article published by one of the 2013 ASMS Research Award winners, Dr. Yu Xia. This publication, co-authored by Craig A. Stinson, a Ph.D. graduate student in Dr. Xia’s laboratory, was supported by Dr. Xia’s proposal entitled ‘Gas-Phase Ion Chemistry of Bio-Radicals’. The article, entitled ‘Reactions of Hydroxyalkyl Radicals with Cysteinyl Peptides in a NanoESI Plume’, describes the formation of carbon centered radicals from alcohol solvents by UV-photolysis, characterization of their reactions toward disulfide bonds, and evaluation of their potential for increasing sequence information in disulfide linked peptides. 

Research in the Xia laboratory is focused on exploring the gasphase ion chemistry of bio-radicals. With the aid of the ASMS Research Award, Dr. Xia’s group has developed devices to perform radical reactions of peptides and lipids within the plume region of an electrospray ionization (ESI) source. Radical reactions facilitate the formation of gas-phase bio-radical species (e.g. cysteine sulfinyl radicals), allowing detailed investigations of their intrinsic chemical properties (structure, unimolecular dissociation, and reactivity) via mass spectrometry. These fundamental studies provide mechanistic insights into radical transfer and reactions within or between proteins in biological systems, which are important for understanding enzyme catalysis and the fate of proteins after radical attack. Leveraging from these bio-radical ion chemistry studies, Dr. Xia’s group is also developing new methods for biomolecular structure analysis. Her group has shown evidence that radical reactions can be harnessed to cleave disulfide bonds within peptides and to increase sequence information from disulfide linked peptides (as shown in her research article). They have also recently demonstrated a facile method based on radical reactions of C=C bonds, and subsequent tandem mass spectrometry analysis, to pinpoint C=C bond locations within lipids. Currently, Dr. Xia’s group is developing tools to couple these radical ion chemistry to biological sample analysis. 
Dr. Xia earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Lanzhou University, in China, in 1999. In 2002, she earned a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Shanghai Institute of Material Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences and in 2006, a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Purdue University, under the supervision of Prof. Scott A. McLuckey. She was guided by R. Graham Cooks for her post-doctoral training at Purdue University. In 2009, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University. To date, Dr. Xia has been the author or co-author of 50 publications, and has received funding for her research from the National Science Foundation.