Mechanistic study on the high-selectivity enantioseparation of amino acids using a chiral crown ether-bonded stationary phase and acidic, highly organic mobile phase by liquid chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr A. 2018 Nov 30;1578:35-44. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2018.10.004. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


The separation mechanism of amino acid enantiomers using a chiral crown ether-bonded stationary phase, CROWNPAK CR-I(+), and acetonitrile (ACN)-rich mobile phases (MPs) was studied. The retention factors of proteinogenic l-amino acids (except proline) formed U-shaped plots against the ACN content in the MP with a sharp increase at a high ACN content, while d-amino acids showed much smaller increases or monotonous decreases in retention within the same range. The use of an acidic, highly organic MP with trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) provided a high enantioselectivity with a short separation time from the contribution of the increased binding of the ammonium group of the analytes to the crown ether functionality of the stationary phase and electrostatic repulsion counteracting the hydrophilic partition mechanism. Optimizing the sample diluent and MP alleviated the peak distortion caused by a moving water band that accompanied the hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography-like elution conditions. The liquid chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry method with the optimized MP - ACN/ethanol/water/TFA = 80/15/5/0.5 (v/v/v/v) - enabled the determination of eighteen pairs of proteinogenic amino acid enantiomers within 10 min. The conditions also provided the following advantages: (i) fast and highly reproducible separations under isocratic conditions, (ii) high sensitivity and low backpressure using the MP with a high organic content, and (iii) highly reliable peak identification by combining two columns (CR-I(+) and CR-I(-)), reversing the elution orders of the enantiomers.

Keywords: Acetonitrile rich mobile phase; Acidic mobile phase; Chiral amino acids; Chiral crown-ether bonded stationary phase; Electrostatic repulsion; LC-TOFMS.

MeSH terms

  • Acetonitriles / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / isolation & purification*
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / methods*
  • Chromatography, Liquid*
  • Crown Ethers / chemistry*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Mass Spectrometry*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Trifluoroacetic Acid / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry


  • Acetonitriles
  • Amino Acids
  • Crown Ethers
  • Water
  • Trifluoroacetic Acid
  • acetonitrile