Capillary liquid chromatography based on particulate and monolithic stationary phases was used to screen complex peptide libraries by fast gradient elution coupled on-line to electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (ESI-FTICRMS). A slightly modified commercial electrospray interface consisting of a fused-silica transfer capillary and low dead volume stainless steel union at which the electrospray voltage was grounded enabled the effluent of all the capillary columns to be directly sprayed into the mass spectrometer. Stable electrospray conditions were generated over a wide range of mobile phase compositions, alleviating the need for a tapered end of the spray capillary, pneumatic assistance or preheated nebulizer gas. Since the identification of complex samples containing numerous isobaric substances is facilitated by chromatographic separation prior to mass spectrometry, stationary phase materials have been employed which offer a fast, efficient elution and, due to the complexity of samples, a high loading capacity. Silica-based monolithic capillary columns combine these three characteristics in a unique manner due to a tailored adjustment of both macro- and mesopore sizes in the highly porous silica structure. As we demonstrate by a comparative study of the silica-based monolithic and packed capillaries for LC/MS analysis of complex peptide libraries, silica monoliths show superior performance over packed beds of small-diameter particles with respect to analysis time and separation efficiency. Libraries with more than 1000 different peptides could be screened in less than 20 min.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.