Surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry of small drug molecules and high molecular weight synthetic/biological polymers using electrospun composite nanofibers†
Polyacrylonitrile/Nafion®/carbon nanotube (PAN/Nafion®/CNT) composite nanofibers were prepared using electrospinning. These electrospun nanofibers were studied as possible substrates for surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization (SALDI) and matrix-enhanced surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ME-SALDI/TOF-MS) for the first time in this paper. Electrospinning provides this novel substrate with a uniform morphology and a narrow size distribution, where CNTs were evenly and firmly immobilized on polymeric nanofibers. The results show that PAN/Nafion®/CNT nanofibrous mats are good substrates for the analysis of both small drug molecules and high molecular weight polymers with high sensitivity. Markedly improved reproducibility was observed relative to MALDI. Due to the composite formation between the polymers and the CNTs, no contamination of the carbon nanotubes to the mass spectrometer was observed. Furthermore, electrospun nanofibers used as SALDI substrates greatly extended the duration of ion signals of target analytes compared to the MALDI matrix. The proposed SALDI approach was successfully used to quantify small drug molecules with no interference in the low mass range. The results show that verapamil could be detected with a surface concentration of 220 femtomoles, indicating the high detection sensitivity of this method. Analysis of peptides and proteins with the electrospun composite substrate using matrix assisted-SALDI was improved and a low limit of detection of approximately 6 femtomoles was obtained for IgG. Both SALDI and ME-SALDI analyses displayed high reproducibility with %RSD ≤ 9% for small drug molecules and %RSD ≤ 14% for synthetic polymers and proteins.