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Discrimination of Regioisomeric and Stereoisomeric Saponins from Aesculus hippocastanum Seeds by Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry


Modern mass spectrometry methods provide a huge benefit to saponin structural characterization, especially when combined with collision-induced dissociation experiments to obtain a partial description of the saponin (ion) structure. However, the complete description of the structures of these ubiquitous secondary metabolites remain challenging, especially since isomeric saponins presenting small differences are often present in a single extract. As a typical example, the horse chestnut triterpene glycosides, the so-called escins, comprise isomeric saponins containing subtle differences such as cis-trans ethylenic configuration (stereoisomers) of a side chain or distinct positions of an acetyl group (regioisomers) on the aglycone. In the present paper, the coupling of liquid chromatography and ion mobility mass spectrometry has been used to distinguish regioisomeric and stereoisomeric saponins. Ion mobility arrival time distributions (ATDs) were recorded for the stereoisomeric and regioisomeric saponin ions demonstrating that isomeric saponins can be partially separated using ion mobility on a commercially available traveling wave ion mobility (TWIMS) mass spectrometer. Small differences in the ATD can only be monitored when the isomeric saponins are separated with liquid chromatography prior to the IM-MS analysis. However, gas phase separation between stereoisomeric and regioisomeric saponin ions can be successfully realized, without any LC separation, on a cyclic ion mobility-enabled quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-cIM-oaToF) mass spectrometer. The main outcome of the present paper is that the structural analysis of regioisomeric and stereoisomeric natural compounds that represents a real challenge can take huge advantages of ion mobility experiments but only if increased ion mobility resolution is attainable.

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The MS laboratory acknowledges the “Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FRS-FNRS)” for its contribution to the acquisition of the Waters QToF Premier and the Waters SYNAPT G2-Si mass spectrometers. P.F. is Research Director of the FRS-FNRS. E.C. and C.D. are grateful to the F.R.I.A. for the financial support.

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Correspondence to Pascal Gerbaux.

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Colson, E., Decroo, C., Cooper-Shepherd, D. et al. Discrimination of Regioisomeric and Stereoisomeric Saponins from Aesculus hippocastanum Seeds by Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 30, 2228–2237 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13361-019-02310-7

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  • Saponins
  • Ion mobility
  • Cyclic ion mobility
  • Stereoisomers
  • Regioisomers
  • Natural products
  • Escin