Development of Alditol Acetate Derivatives for the Determination of 15N-Enriched Amino Sugars by Gas Chromatography-Combustion-Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry

Anal Chem. 2019 Mar 5;91(5):3397-3404. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b04838. Epub 2019 Feb 22.


Amino sugars can be used as indices to evaluate the role of soil microorganisms in active nitrogen (N) cycling in soil. This paper details the assessment of the suitability of gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS) for the analysis of 15N-enriched amino sugars as alditol acetate derivatives prior to application of a novel 15N stable isotope probing (SIP) approach to amino sugars. The efficient derivatization and cleanup of alditol acetate derivatives for GC was achieved using commercially available amino sugars, including glucosamine, mannosamine, galactosamine, and muramic acid, as laboratory standards. A VF-23ms stationary phase was found to produce optimal separations of all four compounds. The structure of the alditol acetate derivatives was confirmed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). For GC-C-IRMS determinations, implementation of a two-point normalization confirmed the optimal carrier gas flow rate to be 1.7 mL min-1. Linearity of δ15N value determinations up to δ15Nt of 469 ± 3.1‰ (where δ15Nt is the independently measured δ15N value) was confirmed when 30 nmol N was injected on-column, with the direction of deviation from δ15Nt at low sample amount dependent on the 15N abundance of the analyte. Observed between- and within-run memory effects were significant ( P < 0.007) when a highly enriched standard (469 ± 3.1‰) was run; therefore, analytical run order and variation in 15N enrichment of analytes within the same sample must be considered. The investigated parameters have confirmed the isotopic robustness of alditol acetate derivatives of amino sugars for the GC-C-IRMS analysis of 15N-enriched amino sugars in terms of linearity over an enrichment range (natural abundance to 469 ± 3.1‰) with on-column analyte amount over 30 nmol N.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / analysis*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Sugar Alcohols / analysis*


  • Acetates
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Sugar Alcohols