PhD Student at Asilomar Conference on Mass Spectrometry

Kiani Jeacock presented a poster and 2-minute “lightning talk” covering her PhD research

Final year PhD student Kiani Jeacock recently travelled to Pacific Grove, California, USA to attend and present at the 36th Asilomar Conference on Mass Spectrometry (ACMS). The theme of this year’s conference was “The Role of Mass Spectrometry in Neurodegenerative Disease Research” and Kiani, student in the Clarke Group, was invited to present a poster and a 2-minute “lightning talk” covering a portion of her PhD research.

The title of Kiani’s presentations was “Isotope depletion and native top-down electron capture dissociation mass spectrometry for studying alpha-synuclein proteoforms” covering research conducted during her PhD that utilises mass spectrometry techniques to understand more about the aggregation of relevant proteins that lead to the cell death that underpins Parkinson’s disease.


My research has focussed on using different mass spectrometry techniques to elucidate structural information about oligomeric forms of alpha-synuclein, the main protein involved in Parkinson’s disease. Oligomers of alpha-synuclein are proposed to be the main cytotoxic species in disease, however, studying them is difficult due to their low abundance, structural heterogeneity and transient nature. Mass spectrometry is able to address some of these issues and so, this conference was the perfect opportunity to highlight research at the intersection of analytical chemistry and neuroscience./

I presented work detailing how combining the Clarke group’s unique isotope depletion method with top-down mass spectrometry enables us to gain unique structural insights into higher order oligomers of alpha-synuclein.

So far this work has focussed mainly on investigating one of the familial mutants of alpha-synuclein associated with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, A53E. Not much is understood about how mutant forms of the alpha-synuclein protein lead to increased disease propensity, but potential differences in their oligomeric forms and structures may contribute to this. Using our method, we are able to detect dimeric alpha-synuclein, perform gas-phase fragmentation, and establish structural differences between the A53E and the wild-type protein dimers. This data will further understanding of how alpha-synuclein mutants aggregate, and cause neuronal cell death in Parkinson’s disease.

I feel extremely lucky to have been able to attend the Asilomar Conference. It reinvigorated my enthusiasm and motivation for my research after a difficult and uncertain couple of years, and I made invaluable contacts for when I continue my academic journey after I finish my PhD… Now as a final year PhD student, this conference was an excellent chance for me to showcase the work I have been doing for the past 3 years.


The Asilomar Conference has been an exciting opportunity for Kaini to showcase her PhD research at an international scientific conference and discuss her work with experts in the field.


More Information

Keep up to date with research conducted by the Clarke group by following Dr Clarke and Kiani on Twitter: