Mass spectrometric glycan rearrangements

Mass Spectrom Rev. Jul-Aug 2011;30(4):664-80. doi: 10.1002/mas.20337. Epub 2011 May 10.


Mass spectrometric rearrangement reactions have been reported for a large variety of compounds such as peptides, lipids, and carbohydrates. In the case of carbohydrates this phenomenon has been described as internal residue loss. Resulting fragment ions may be misinterpreted as fragments arising from conventional glycosidic bond cleavages, which may result in incorrect structural assignment. Therefore, awareness of the occurrence of glycan rearrangements is important for avoiding misinterpretation of tandem mass spectra. In this review mass spectrometric rearrangements of both derivatized and underivatized (native) oligosaccharide structures are discussed. Similar phenomena have been reported for glycopeptides, labeled glycan structures and other biomolecules containing a carbohydrate part. Rearrangements in oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates have been observed with different types of mass spectrometers. Most of the observed carbohydrate rearrangement reactions appear to be linked to the presence of a proton. Hence, tandem mass spectrometric analysis of alkali adducts or deprotonated ions often prevents rearrangement reactions, while they may happen with high efficacy with protonated glycoconjugates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Glycopeptides / chemistry*
  • Hexoses / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods


  • Glycopeptides
  • Hexoses
  • Oligosaccharides