A main field of work is the application and development of modern bioanalytical techniques especially in the field of protein characterization by mass spectrometry. Employing these methods we analyse structural modifications of bioactive proteins and identify biomarker for the determination of authenticity in food.
The structural characterisation of proteins in food is of high interest for the development of new, efficient detection methods for the control of authenticity using mass spectrometry. The identification of sequence polymorphisms can be used to differentiate between species or to determine the purity of variety.
After the horse meat scandal in 2013 where 50.000 tons of undeclared horse meat were processed and sold as beef the research area of food authenticity has been of high interest. Since then we have developed a sensitive mass spectrometry method to detect pig or horse meat in beef products. For this purpose protein extracts of several meat samples were prepared, digested with trypsin and analysed by mass spectrometry. Specific peptide markers for different species were identified and combined in one sensitive method.
We also developed a similar method to detect allergenic food proteins in tree nuts.
Regarding allergenic food proteins, we are interested in structural polymorphisms in food allergens and modifications of these proteins during food processing. While the mechanisms of allergic reactions are well understood the influence of the protein structure on the allergenic potential is the challenging part of the research. Another important part of our research is the characterisation of isoforms and structural polymorphisms in food allergens since the available data is often incomplete.