Differentiation of complex lipid isomers by radical-directed dissociation mass spectrometry

Huong T. Pham, Tony Ly, Adam J. Trevitt, Todd W. Mitchell, Stephen J. Blanksby

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    138 Citations (Scopus)


    Contemporary lipidomics protocols are dependent on conventional tandem mass spectrometry for lipid identification. This approach is extremely powerful for determining lipid class and identifying the number of carbons and the degree of unsaturation of any acyl-chain substituents. Such analyses are however, blind to isomeric variants arising from different carbon–carbon bonding motifs within these chains including double bond position, chain branching, and cyclic structures. This limitation arises from the fact that conventional, low energy collision-induced dissociation of even-electron lipid ions does not give rise to product ions from intrachain fragmentation of the fatty acyl moieties. To overcome this limitation, we have applied radical-directed dissociation (RDD) to the study of lipids for the first time. In this approach, bifunctional molecules that contain a photocaged radical initiator and a lipid-adducting group, such as 4-iodoaniline and 4-iodobenzoic acid, are used to form noncovalent complexes (i.e., adduct ions) with a lipid during electrospray ionization. Laser irradiation of these complexes at UV wavelengths (266 nm) cleaves the carbon–iodine bond to liberate a highly reactive phenyl radical. Subsequent activation of the nascent radical ions results in RDD with significant intrachain fragmentation of acyl moieties. This approach provides diagnostic fragments that are associated with the double bond position and the positions of chain-branching in glycerophospholipids, sphingomyelins and triacylglycerols and thus can be used to differentiate isomeric lipids differing only in such motifs. RDD is demonstrated for well-defined lipid standards and also reveals lipid structural diversity in olive oil and human very-low density lipoprotein.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7525-7532
    Number of pages8
    JournalAnalytical Chemistry
    Issue number17
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2012


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