q-exactive-hf-x-and-vanquish-rf_wrk2Recently, I was in the market to upgrade my smartphone. Given I’m not super tech savvy, figuring out if I should upgrade to a new phone versus buying a refurbished smartphone initially seemed like a daunting task. I just needed someone to answer the question: “Why should I upgrade?” Fortunately, I was quickly able to learn about a couple of key benefits that really resonated with my lifestyle using an interactive smartphone comparison table.

However, deciding to upgrade to a higher performing mass spectrometry (MS) instrument may require a bit more effort than just a few web clicks. As author Maciej Bromirski announced in his blog post “The Cutting Edge of Protein Analysis”, Thermo Fisher Scientific launched the novel Thermo Scientific Q Exactive HF-X hybrid quadrupole mass spectrometer at ASMS 2017. Targeted toward users performing protein analysis in complex biological samples, the Q Exactive HF-X is the most premiere mass spectrometer amongst the Q Exactive MS product portfolio. Just recently, the Q Exactive HF-X was awarded the Scientists’ Choice Award by scientists for the  2017 Best New Drug Discovery Product of the Year by Select Science.

How do you decide if the most premiere Q Exactive Series MS is worth the upgrade? Let’s explore the top three incremental benefits for your laboratory: enhanced sensitivity, speed and depth of analysis.

Sensitivity: Understand Your Protein in More Detail

With improvements to the ion source, the Q Exactive HF-X achieves lower limits of detection regardless of the resolution setting. The High Capacity Transfer Tube (HCTT) and Electrodynamic Ion Funnel (EDIF) provide better ion transmission and stability for small molecule analytes to native antibodies.

A good example of the impact of improved sensitivity is when using the High Mass Range mode of the BioPharma option. The superior ion transmission of the Q Exactive HF-X MS enables intact therapeutic protein analysis (up to m/z 8,000) under native conditions. The ion transmission allows use of high resolution settings to better resolve protein modifications which is impactful when analyzing large proteins.

Speed: Analyze the Proteome 2X Faster Without Compromising Data Quality 

For large scale, proteomic studies, speed of analysis is obviously important. Figure 1 illustrates how the Q-Exactive HF-X MS can analyze the same number of protein groups but twice as fast with a 40 Hz scan rate at 7,500 resolution. Additionally, the Q Exactive HF-X MS does not sacrifice MS spectral quality as apparent in Figure 2.

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Figure 1 | Click to enlarge

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Figure 2 | Click to enlarge

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Improved Efficiency Using the Advanced Peak Determination (APD) Algorithm

Former peak detection algorithms can suffer from inefficient identification of isotopic clusters in complex spectra. The APD algorithm identifies the charge states and monoisotopic m/z values of isotopic envelopes as illustrated in Figure 3. This enables the identification of more precursor candidates and eventually, a more complete picture of proteins in your sample.

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Figure 3 | Click to enlarge | Source: Grant Application Resource: Top reasons to upgrade to a Q Exactive HF-X

Depth of Analysis: Identify 40% More Unique Peptides Per Unit Time

Figure 4 demonstrates the results of an experiment where a 60-minute LC

gradient was performed on the Thermo Scientific Q Exactive Plus MS, Q Exactive HF MS and the Q Exactive HF-X MS. The Q Exactive HF-X MS identified 40% more peptides in the same amount of time.

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Figure 4 | Click to enlarge

If you are interested in understanding the full capabilities of the Q Exactive HF-X, I would recommend checking out this Grant Application Resource. I was also very pleased to discover an ACS publication, Performance Evaluation of the Q Exactive HF-X for Shotgun Proteomics by The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research. They have performed a benchmark performance study with the Q Exactive HF-X and the Q Exactive HF. I highly recommend reviewing the publication if you are looking for actual user input as you decide if the upgrade makes sense for your laboratory’s needs.

In the case you are interested in upgrading, Thermo Fisher Scientific does offer a program where you can trade in your Q Exactive HF for an applied discount towards the Q Exactive HF-X MS. Additionally, you have the option to purchase factory-certified mass spectrometers which have been fully reconditioned at our centers. These mass spectrometers also come with a one year warranty and are supported by Unity Lab Services (ULS).