Hydrophilic interaction chromatography coupled matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry for molecular analysis of organic compounds in medicines, tea, and coffee†
Natural occurring organic compounds from food, natural organic matter, as well as metabolic products have received intense attention in current chemical and biological studies. Examination of unknown compounds in complex sample matrices is hampered by the limited choices for data readout and molecular elucidation. Herein, we report a generic method of hydrophilic interaction chromatography (HILIC) coupled with matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) for the rapid characterization of ingredients in pharmaceutical compounds, tea, and coffee. The analytes were first fractionated using a cationic HILIC column prior to MALDI-MS analyses. It was found that the retention times of a compound arising from different samples were consistent under the same conditions. Accordingly, molecules can be readily characterized by both the mass and chromatographic retention time. The retention behaviors of acidic and basic compounds on the cationic HILIC column were found to be significantly influenced by the pH of mobile phases, whereas neutral compounds depicted a constant retention time at different pH. The general HILIC-MALDI-MS method is feasible for fast screening of naturally occurring organic compounds. A series of homologs can be determined if they have the same retention behavior. Their structural features can be elucidated by considering their mass differences and hydrophilic properties as determined by HILIC chromatogram.