Skip Navigation
National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesNational Institutes of Health
Increase text size Decrease text size Print this page

Mass Spectrometry Group

Tertiary Structures of Proteins

Kenneth B. Tomer, Ph.D.
Kenneth B. Tomer, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Tel (919) 541-1966
Fax (919) 541-0220
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop F0-03
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
Delivery Instructions

Research Summary

The underlying theme of the Mass Spectrometry Group´s research efforts is the structural characterization of biomolecules involved in the body´s immunological and inflammatory responses to environmental exposures. As the immune system is challenged, a number of different innate and adaptive immunological responses can occur. These responses include complement activation, production of antibodies, regulation of protein levels and activities, changes in levels of pro- or anti-inflammatory small molecules, and complement activation. Each of these responses is regulated by additional levels of complexity where multiple events occur, including the recruitment of protein partners, synthesis of second messengers, posttranslational modifications (PTMs) of proteins, and repair of biological damage. The group is especially interested in mass spectrometric-based structural studies of the specific biomolecules involved in these cellular events. To address these questions, the group uses techniques such as nanoscale capillary liquid chromatography, direct analysis of affinity-bound analytes by MALDI/MS, that the group was instrumental in their development. Broadly categorized, these studies include: the characterization of the primary sequence, PTMs, and tertiary structures of relevant proteins, the determination of the recognition surfaces involved in protein:protein interactions, and small molecule quantitation.

circular diagram of Tertiary Structures of Proteins
Oxidative Stress Tertiary Structural Characterization of Proteins & Protein Complexes Quantitative Mass Spectrometry Protein Posttranslational Modifications Proteomics Mass Spectrometry Group

Major areas of research:

  • Structural studies of proteins and protein:protein interactions associated with pathogens and the body's immune response and with autoimmunity.
  • Structural studies of environmental damage to proteins, especially free-radical initiated oxidative stress, and of proteins involved in repair of damage of damaged DNA.
  • Identification of PTMs and changes in PTMs (e.g. phosphorylation) of proteins, especially as it relates to cell signaling and protein regulation in response to environmental exposures.
  • Identification of changes in protein expression and levels of expression in response to environmental exposures.
  • Quantitation of small molecules as they relate to diseases and physiological responses.

Current projects:

  • Mapping epitopes recognized by human anti-HIV gp120, gp41 and p24 protein antibodies, human anti-HCV E2 protein antibodies, anti-B. anthracis ATR protein antibodies
  • Development of oxidative surface mapping for characterization of protein recognition surfaces
  • Structural characterization of proteins and protein:protein interactions involved in DNA repair, Sjogren’s disease, B. subtilis competency, and (blood clotting) Factor Xa
  • Development of novel methods. e.g., TiO2 metal ion affinity, for isolation and characterization of phosphorylated proteins and peptides
  • Development of improved methods for the quantitative analysis of androgens by LC/MS/MS and their application to refractory prostate cancer tissue
  • Quantitation of eicosanoids in a variety of tissue types

Key Collaborators:

  • T. Archer(
  • M. Fessler(
  • S. Foung( Exit NIEHS
  • T. Kunkel(
  • B. Lentz( Exit NIEHS
  • S. Little( Exit NIEHS
  • R. Mason(
  • M. Przybylski( Exit NIEHS
  • S. Wilson(
  • S. Zolla-Pazner( Exit NIEHS

Kenneth B. Tomer, Ph.D., is the head of the Mass Spectrometry Group. He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed research papers and more than 30 reviews and book chapters. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Colorado in 1970. Prior to joining NIEHS in 1986, he was Associate Director of the Midwest Center for Mass Spectrometry/Assoc. Research Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Nebraska.

Back to top Back to top Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health
This page URL:
NIEHS website:
Email the Web Manager at
Last Reviewed: December 11, 2008