Structure elucidation of native N- and O-linked glycans by tandem mass spectrometry (tutorial)

Mass Spectrom Rev. Jul-Aug 2011;30(4):560-78. doi: 10.1002/mas.20283. Epub 2010 Nov 22.


Oligosaccharides play important roles in many biological processes. However, the structural elucidation of oligosaccharides remains a major challenge due to the complexities of their structures. Mass spectrometry provides a powerful method for determining oligosaccharide composition. Tandem mass spectrometry (MS) provides structural information with high sensitivity. Oligosaccharide structures differ from other polymers such as peptides because of the large number of linkage combinations and branching. This complexity makes the analysis of oligosaccharide unique from that of peptides. This tutorial addresses the issue of spectral interpretation of tandem MS under conditions of collision-induced dissociation (CID) and infrared multiphoton dissociation (IRMPD). The proper interpretation of tandem MS data can provide important structural information on different types of oligosaccharides including O- and N-linked.

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Carbohydrate Sequence*
  • Glycopeptides / chemistry
  • Glycoproteins / chemistry
  • Infrared Rays
  • Oligosaccharides, Branched-Chain / chemistry*
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Glycopeptides
  • Glycoproteins
  • Oligosaccharides, Branched-Chain