Sources of artefacts in the electrospray ionization mass spectra of saturated diacylglycerophosphocholines: From condensed phase hydrolysis reactions through to gas phase intercluster reactions Academic Article uri icon


  • The mass spectra of diacylglycerophosphocholine phospholipids comprised of saturated fatty acids (1,2-dipentanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (D5PC); 1,2-dihexanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (D6PC), and 1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (D14PC)) are sensitive to the electrospray ionization (ESI) conditions. When fresh solutions of phospholipid in 10 mM ammonium acetate are subjected to ESI, protonated oligomeric clusters, [DxPCn + H]+ (x = 5, 6, and 14) are observed in the following different types of mass spectrometers: 3D-quadrupole ion trap; linear ion trap, and triple quadrupole. The formation of the protonated cluster ions is not unique to the ion trap instruments, although they tend to be more abundant in these instruments. As the ESI solutions age, new ions are observed, which correspond to acid-catalyzed solution phase deacylation reactions. The collision induced dissociation fragmentation reactions of the oligomer cluster ions exhibit a distinct dependence on the cluster size, with the larger clusters (n > 2) simply fragmenting via the loss of lipid monomers. In contrast, the fragmentation of the dimeric cluster ion is unique, resulting in a number of additional reactions including covalent bond formation via intermolecular cluster SN2 reactions and SN2 transfer of a methyl group. The nature of the charge has a significant role in the formation of products via these intermolecular cluster reactions. Changing the head group to phosphoethanolamine "switches off" the SN2 reactions, while changing the cation from a proton to either a sodium or a potassium ion, diminishes the intermolecular reactions relative to monomer loss. Semi empirical PM3 calculations on [D6PC2 + H]+ suggest that the SN2 reactions are thermodynamically favored over simple monomer loss. These results have important implications in the field of lipidomics.

publication date

  • March 2006