Structural characterization of glycerophospholipids by combinations of ozone- and collision-induced dissociation mass spectrometry: the next step towards "top-down" lipidomics

Analyst. 2014 Jan 7;139(1):204-14. doi: 10.1039/c3an01712e. Epub 2013 Nov 15.


The complete structural elucidation of complex lipids, including glycerophospholipids, using only mass spectrometry represents a major challenge to contemporary analytical technologies. Here, we demonstrate that product ions arising from the collision-induced dissociation (CID) of the [M + Na](+) adduct ions of phospholipids can be isolated and subjected to subsequent gas-phase ozonolysis - known as ozone-induced dissociation (OzID) - in a linear ion-trap mass spectrometer. The resulting CID/OzID experiment yields abundant product ions that are characteristic of the acyl substitution on the glycerol backbone (i.e., sn-position). This approach is shown to differentiate sn-positional isomers, such as the regioisomeric phosphatidylcholine pair of PC 16:0/18:1 and PC 18:1/16:0. Importantly, CID/OzID provides a sensitive diagnostic for the existence of an isomeric mixture in a given sample. This is of very high value for the analysis of tissue extracts since CID/OzID analyses can reveal changes in the relative abundance of isomeric constituents even within different tissues from the same animal. Finally, we demonstrate the ability to assign carbon-carbon double bond positions to individual acyl chains at specific backbone positions by adding subsequent CID and/or OzID steps to the workflow and that this can be achieved in a single step using a hybrid triple quadrupole-linear ion trap mass spectrometer. This unique approach represents the most complete and specific structural analysis of lipids by mass spectrometry demonstrated to date and is a significant step towards comprehensive top-down lipidomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Glycerophospholipids / analysis*
  • Glycerophospholipids / chemistry*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Ozone / chemistry*


  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Lipids
  • Ozone