Electrospray ionization for mass spectrometry of large biomolecules

Science. 1989 Oct 6;246(4926):64-71. doi: 10.1126/science.2675315.


Electrospray ionization has recently emerged as a powerful technique for producing intact ions in vacuo from large and complex species in solution. To an extent greater than has previously been possible with the more familiar "soft" ionization methods, this technique makes the power and elegance of mass spectrometric analysis applicable to the large and fragile polar molecules that play such vital roles in biological systems. The distinguishing features of electrospray spectra for large molecules are coherent sequences of peaks whose component ions are multiply charged, the ions of each peak differing by one charge from those of adjacent neighbors in the sequence. Spectra have been obtained for biopolymers including oligonucleotides and proteins, the latter having molecular weights up to 130,000, with as yet no evidence of an upper limit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ions
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Molecular Weight
  • Proteins / analysis*


  • Ions
  • Proteins