Articles

Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 1498-1509

Direct qualitative analysis of triacylglycerols by electrospray mass spectrometry using a linear ion trap

  • Andrew M. McAnoyAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
  • , Christine C. WuAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
  • , Robert C. MurphyAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Email author 

Abstract

Triacylglycerols (TAGs) isolated from a biological sample provide a challenge for mass spectrometric analysis because of the complexity of naturally occurring TAGs, which may contain different fatty acyl substituents resulting in a large number of molecular species having the identical elemental composition. We have investigated the use of mass spectrometry to obtain unambiguous information as to the individual TAG molecular species present in a complex mixture of triacylglycerols using a linear ion trap mass spectrometer. Ammonium adducts of TAGs, [M+NH4]+, were generated by electrospray ionization, which permitted the molecular weight of each TAG molecular species to be determined. The mechanisms involved in the decomposition of the [M+NH4]+ and subsequent fragment ions were investigated using deuterium labeling, MS/MS, and MS3 experiments. Collision induced decomposition of [M+NH4]+ ions resulted in the neutral loss of NH3 and an acyl side-chain (as a carboxylic acid) to generate a diacyl product ion. MS/MS data were used to identify each acyl group present for a given [M+NH4]+ ion, and this information could be combined with molecular weight data to identify possible TAG molecular species present in a biological extract. Subsequent MS3 experiments on the resultant diacyl product ions, which gave rise to acylium (RCO+) and related ions, enabled unambiguous TAG molecular assignments. These strategies of MS, MS/MS, and MS3 experiments were applied to identify components within a complex mixture of neutral lipids extracted from RAW 264. 7 cells.