Structural characterization of glycerophospholipids by combinations of ozone- and collision-induced dissociation mass spectrometry: the next step towards “top-down” lipidomics
The complete structural elucidation of complex lipids, including glycerophospholipids, using only mass spectrometry represents a major challenge to contemporary analytical technologies. Here, we demonstrate that product ions arising from the collision-induced dissociation (CID) of the [M + Na]+ adduct ions of phospholipids can be isolated and subjected to subsequent gas-phase ozonolysis – known as ozone-induced dissociation (OzID) – in a linear ion-trap mass spectrometer. The resulting CID/OzID experiment yields abundant product ions that are characteristic of the acyl substitution on the glycerol backbone (i.e., sn-position). This approach is shown to differentiate sn-positional isomers, such as the regioisomeric phosphatidylcholine pair of PC 16:0/18:1 and PC 18:1/16:0. Importantly, CID/OzID provides a sensitive diagnostic for the existence of an isomeric mixture in a given sample. This is of very high value for the analysis of tissue extracts since CID/OzID analyses can reveal changes in the relative abundance of isomeric constituents even within different tissues from the same animal. Finally, we demonstrate the ability to assign carbon–carbon double bond positions to individual acyl chains at specific backbone positions by adding subsequent CID and/or OzID steps to the workflow and that this can be achieved in a single step using a hybrid triple quadrupole-linear ion trap mass spectrometer. This unique approach represents the most complete and specific structural analysis of lipids by mass spectrometry demonstrated to date and is a significant step towards comprehensive top-down lipidomics.