Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry has become invaluable in the characterization of macromolecular biological systems such as nucleic acids and proteins. Recent advances in the field of mass spectrometry and the soft conditions characteristic of electrospray ionization allow for the investigation of non-covalent interactions among large biomolecules and ligands. Modulation of genetic processes through the use of small molecule inhibitors with the DNA minor groove is gaining attention as a potential therapeutic approach. In this review, we discuss the development of a competition method using electrospray ionization mass spectrometry to probe the interactions of multiple DNA sequences with libraries of minor groove binding molecules. Such an approach acts as a high-throughput screening method to determine important information including the stoichiometry, binding mode, cooperativity, and relative binding affinity. In addition to small molecule-DNA complexes, we highlight other applications in which competition mass spectrometry has been used. A competitive approach to simultaneously investigate complex interactions promises to be a powerful tool in the discovery of small molecule inhibitors with high specificity and for specific, important DNA sequences.
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