The identification of trace components from biological media can require derivatization under mild conditions for successful analysis by mass spectrometry (MS). When aqueous droplets (ca. 500 nL) containing a sugar and an amine as reagents are allowed to evaporate they may form long-lasting microthin films in which derivatization reactions can occur fast relative to reaction rates in bulk solution. Evidence is presented that these reactions are heterogeneous in nature and comparisons are made with reactions in pastes and in neat reagent mixtures. Moreover, these thin film reactors can be made stable for the long periods of time that may be necessary to give high product yields. The situation is typified by imine formation from reducing sugars which have reaction times of much more than 1 hour provided that small concentrations (e.g. 20 ppm) of nonvolatile solvents are included. After evaporation of almost all the water, the reaction occurs at an approximately constant rate for the first hour. The rate is two orders of magnitude faster than the reaction in the corresponding homogeneous saturated bulk solution. Conversion of the reagent to the Schiff base product is 67% to 96% efficient in these long-lasting thin films, in sharp contrast to the corresponding derivatization efficiencies in the bulk of less than 1%. This method was used to chemically derivatize and thus to identify, using tandem mass spectrometry, 29 reducing sugars in ca. 1 nL of intracellular fluid from a single onion epidermis cell. A formal description of the kinetics of reversible and irreversible second order reactions in thin films is provided. The effects of thermodynamic and kinetic factors are separated and the measured apparent acceleration factor is shown to represent the ratio of intrinsic rate constants for the microthin film reactor relative to the bulk reaction.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2018 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection