Quantitative profiling of PE, MMPE, DMPE, and PC lipid species by multiple precursor ion scanning: a tool for monitoring PE metabolism

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Dec;1811(12):1081-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2011.09.018. Epub 2011 Oct 5.


We report a method for the simultaneous identification and quantification of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), monomethyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (MMPE), dimethyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (DMPE), and phosphatidylcholine (PC) species in lipid extracts. The method employs a specific "mass-tag" strategy where DMPE, MMPE, and PE species are chemically methylated with deuterated methyliodide (CD(3)I) to produce PC molecules having class-specific mass offsets of 3, 6 and 9Da, respectively. The derivatized aminoglycerophospholipids release characteristic phosphorylcholine-like fragment ions having specific mass offsets that powers sensitive and quantitative analysis by multiple precursor ion scanning on a hybrid quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Using the mass-tag strategy, we could for the first time determine the stoichiometric relationship between the biosynthetic intermediates MMPE and DMPE, and abundant PE and PC species in a single mass spectrometric analysis. We demonstrated the efficacy of the methodology by conducting a series of biochemical experiments using stable isotope labeled ethanolamine to survey the activities and substrate specificities of enzymes involved in PE metabolism in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Finally, we benchmarked the mass-tag strategy by specific and sensitive profiling of intermediate MMPE and DMPE species in liver.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deuterium / metabolism
  • Ethanolamine / metabolism
  • Isotope Labeling / methods*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mice
  • Phosphatidylcholines / analysis*
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / analysis*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / chemistry*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Ethanolamine
  • Deuterium