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Peptide schematics, hops, milk and a heatmap

 

The food chemistry research group at FAU focuses on the molecular determinants of food bioactivity and functionality. Foods are complex systems, which are composed of thousands of different components. In order to understand how the foods’ molecular composition modulates their (bio-)function, comprehensive profiling methods are applied based on cutting-edge mass spectrometry methods and bioinformatic tools.

Peptide structure

Food peptides strongly influence the quality and possible health benefits of food. The combination of different high-resolution mass spectrometry methods allows for comprehensive qualitative and quantitative peptide profiling. Linked to virtual screening and bioinformatics analysis, the peptide profiles lead to the identification of novel functional ingredients, such as, e.g., highly active antimicrobial peptides from milk and plant sources.

 

PCA biplot of milk peptide markers with milk as backgroundPeptide profiling in combination with bioinformatics analysis can also identify marker compounds to control the authenticity of food, for example of milk and milk products, or to detect food fraud. Since various external and internal parameters influence the milk peptidome, a peptide marker set reflects various food properties, such as species, fermentation, storage or processing conditions.

 

timsTOF Pro LC-MS systemHigh-resolution mass spectrometry linked to bioinformatics tools allows comprehensive profiling of the protein composition in foods. Thus, the qualitative protein composition reveals bioactive, techno-functional proteins and detects molecular differences between samples. Quantitative proteome analysis is a highly flexible method for the absolute and relative quantification of protein profiles in a complex food. Qualitative and quantitative protein profiles decipher the molecular determinants of food quality, health benefits and safety with the goal to control and rationally design its properties.

 

3D schematic of a receptor for molecular dockingOn the protein level, food proteomics aims for the comprehensive analysis of individual protein structures. Our work group develops and applies mass spectrometry methods for the systematic survey of non-enzymatic posttranslational modifications including structure elucidation and the time-dependent quantification of each specific product and binding site. The most prevalent non-enzymatic posttranslational modifications are oxidation, glycation to advanced glycation end-products (AGE), and Maillard reactions, which are formed, for example, during food processing.

3D view of LC-MS data of the gastric digest of milk

Heatmap

Bioactive molecules interact with various cellular targets. Cellular proteomics aims for the comprehensive description of cellular reactions towards bioactive molecules by their time-dependent protein expression profile. The profile eventually allows the precise prediction of the tested bioactive components. Our work group developed, for example, pluridimensional targeted proteome assays to evaluate cytoprotective food components.

Volcano plot visualizing protein regulationWithin the DFG Research Training Group “Medicinal Chemistry of Selective GPCR Ligands” (RTG1910), we develop multiplexed targeted proteome assays to monitor downstream signaling events resulting from functionally selective ligand binding. Untargeted profiling of protein expression can identify novel signaling events. The objective is to develop a fast and flexible assay system based on proteomics tools to address ligand-biased signaling of ligands of G protein-coupled receptors.

As a part of the International Graduate Programme “Receptor Dynamics: Emerging Paradigms for Novel Drugs” of Elite Network of Bavaria, our group addresses the ligand-specific conformation of G protein-coupled receptors by a quantitative mass spectrometry approach.

 

MEMRI recording rat brain“Neurotrition” describes the interaction between nutrition and neuronal function. Nutrients and diet can modulate brain functionality and brain activity, while the brain’s activity patterns in turn influence the nutritional intake.

 

The ongoing projects aim to elucidate how molecularly defined food components affect the brain functionality, and how the neurophysiological processes influence the type and quantity of consumed food.

Pharmacophore model

Droplets of a fatty acids as seen through ToF SIMS analysis

The research unit Food Safety and Quality is a scientific platform for interdisciplinary research projects focusing on the quality enhancement of food and the improvement of food safety. For this purpose, different disciplines at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg pool cutting-edge research in food-related projects. Translational projects transfer the results at an early stage to technical applications.

Industrial bakery