High-throughput quantification of phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry coupled with isotope correction algorithm

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Nov 8;1686(1-2):108-17. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2004.09.003.


The choline head group containing phosphatidylcholine (PC) and sphingomyelin (SPM) are major eukaryotic lipid components playing an important role in forming membrane microdomains and serve as precursor of signaling molecules. Both lipids can be monitored by positive ion mode electrospray tandem mass spectrometry using a parent ion scan of m/z 184. Although PC species appear at even m/z and SPM species at odd m/z, there may be a significant overlap of their isotopes. In order to separate PC and SPM species, an isotope correction algorithm was established, which utilizes calculated isotope percentages to correct the measured peak intensities for their isotopic overlap. We could demonstrate that this approach was applicable to correct the isotope overlap resulting from spiked PC and SPM species. Quantification was achieved by addition of different PC and SPM species prior to lipid extraction. The developed assay showed a precision, detection limit and robustness sufficient for routine analysis. Furthermore, an analysis time of only 1.3 min combined with automated data analysis using self-programmed Excel Macros allows high-throughput analysis. In summary, this assay may be a valuable tool for detailed lipid analysis of PC and SPM species in a variety of sample materials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Humans
  • Phosphatidylcholines / blood*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Sphingomyelins / blood*
  • Sphingomyelins / chemistry


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Sphingomyelins