Accurate mass analysis of N-acyl-homoserine-lactones and cognate lactone-opened compounds in bacterial isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 by LC-ESI-LTQ-FTICR-MS

J Mass Spectrom. 2009 Feb;44(2):182-92. doi: 10.1002/jms.1479.


N-acyl-homoserine-lactones (AHSLs) are widely conserved signal molecules present in quorum sensing systems of Gram-negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We present here the results obtained with a hybrid linear trap/Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (LTQ-FTICR) mass spectrometer used to investigate the occurrence of AHSLs and cognate N-acyl-homoserines (AHSs) in bacterial isolates of P. aeruginosa (strain PAO1). Two hydrolysed AHSs were found in significant amounts, most likely formed through the lactone opening of N-3-oxo-decanoyl-L-homoserine-lactone (3OC10-HSL) and N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-homoserine-lactone (3OC12-HSL). Structure elucidation of these ring-opened molecules, i.e. N-3-oxo-decanoyl-L-homoserine (3OC10-HS), and N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-homoserine (3OC12-HS), which are not detected by bacterial biosensors, was performed by high-resolution and accurate mass measurements upon liquid chromatography (LC) and confirmed by tandem MS in the LTQ analyser. Assignment of chemical formula, with mass spectra in the form of [M+H]+, was significantly expedited by extracted ion chromatograms (XICs) because the number of potentially plausible formulae for each protonated signalling molecule was considerably reduced a priori by the LC behaviour, the high mass measurement accuracy available in FTICR mass spectra and the isotopic patterns. At least two concentration levels were observed in spent culture supernatants of P. aeruginosa: compounds at a relatively high content (5-15 microM) that is C4-HSL, 3OC10-HS, and 3OC12-HS and those occurring at a lower content (<0.2 microM) that is C6-HSL and C8-HSL. The implications of this work extend to a great variety of Gram-negative bacteria.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyl-Butyrolactones / analysis*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Homoserine / analogs & derivatives
  • Homoserine / analysis
  • Molecular Structure
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / chemistry
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / instrumentation
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared


  • Acyl-Butyrolactones
  • Homoserine