Identification of abundant alkyl ether glycerophospholipids in the human lens by tandem mass spectrometry techniques

Anal Chem. 2009 Mar 1;81(5):1920-30. doi: 10.1021/ac802395d.


Previous studies have shown that the human lens contains glycerophospholipids with ether linkages. These lipids differ from conventional glycerophospholipids in that the sn-1 substituent is attached to the glycerol backbone via an 1-O-alkyl or an 1-O-alk-1'-enyl ether rather than an ester bond. The present investigation employed a combination of collision-induced dissociation (CID) and ozone-induced dissociation (OzID) to unambiguously distinguish such 1-O-alkyl and 1-O-alk-1'-enyl ethers. Using these methodologies the human lens was found to contain several abundant 1-O-alkyl glycerophosphoethanolamines, including GPEtn(16:0e/9Z-18:1), GPEtn(11Z-18:1e/9Z-18:1), and GPEtn(18:0e/9Z-18:1), as well as a related series of unusual 1-O-alkyl glycerophosphoserines, including GPSer(16:0e/9Z-18:1), GPSer(11Z-18:1e/9Z-18:1), GPSer(18:0e/9Z-18:1) that to our knowledge have not previously been observed in human tissue. Isomeric 1-O-alk-1'-enyl ethers were absent or in low abundance. Examination of the double bond position within the phospholipids using OzID revealed that several positional isomers were present, including sites of unsaturation at the n-9, n-7, and even n-5 positions. Tandem CID/OzID experiments revealed a preference for double bonds in the n-7 position of 1-O-ether linked chains, while n-9 double bonds predominated in the ester-linked fatty acids [e.g., GPEtn(11Z-18:1e/9Z-18:1) and GPSer(11Z-18:1e/9Z-18:1)]. Different combinations of these double bond positional isomers within chains at the sn-1 and sn-2 positions point to a remarkable molecular diversity of ether-lipids within the human lens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ethers / chemistry
  • Glycerophospholipids / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / chemistry*
  • Phospholipids / chemistry
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Ethers
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Phospholipids