An improved method for tracking and reducing the void volume in nano HPLC-MS with micro trapping columns

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2003 Aug;376(7):946-51. doi: 10.1007/s00216-003-2047-2. Epub 2003 Jul 11.


Tandem mass spectrometry coupled to HPLC is the state of the art technique in proteomic research. Here we describe a highly sensitive nano liquid chromatography system (nano HPLC) for analysis of protein digests. Using preconcentration in a column-switching set-up, we were able to inject large sample volumes (< or =250 microL) without significant loss of sensitivity. The major problem with this type of preconcentration is usually the occurrence of void volumes. In order to diagnose void volumes a simple and easy test was developed by which the UV trace and the pressure profile in the separation column were monitored. Part by part replacement of connection tubing restored a void volume-free system. A major pre-requisite for handling samples in the femtomol range was found to be the use of protein/peptide-saturated columns tryptic digests of cytochrome C were injected directly onto the reversed-phase nano separation column (75 microm inner diameter) and the separation results were compared with chromatograms obtained from separations using column switching. By using column switching we were able to inject large sample volumes in a short time period without losing resolution.