Dual mass spectrometry as a tool to improve annotation and quantification in targeted plasma lipidomics

Metabolomics. 2020 Apr 17;16(5):53. doi: 10.1007/s11306-020-01677-z.


Introduction: High quality data, based on reliable quantification and clear identification of the reported lipid species, are required for the clinical translation of human plasma lipidomic studies.

Objective: Lipid quantification can be efficiently performed on triple quadrupole (QqQ) mass spectrometers in targeted multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode. However, a series of issues can be encountered when aiming at unambiguous identification and accurate quantification, including (i) resolving peaks of polyunsaturated species, (ii) discriminating between plasmanyl-, plasmenyl- and odd chain species and (iii) resolving the isotopic overlap between co-eluting lipid species.

Methods: As a practical tool to improve the quality of targeted lipidomics studies, we applied a Dual MS platform by simultaneously coupling a reversed-phase liquid chromatography separation to a QqQ and a quadrupole-time of flight (Q-ToF) mass spectrometers. In one single experiment, this platform allows to correctly identify, by high-resolution MS and MS/MS, the peaks that are quantified by MRM.

Results: As proof of concept, we applied the platform on glycerophosphocholines (GPCs) and sphingomyelins (SMs), which are highly abundant in human plasma and play crucial roles in various physiological functions. Our results demonstrated that Dual MS could provide a higher level of confidence in the identification and quantification of GPCs and SMs in human plasma. The same approach can also be applied to improve the study of other lipid classes and expanded for the identification of novel lipid molecular species.

Conclusions: This methodology might have a great potential to achieve a better specificity in the quantification of lipids by targeted lipidomics in high-throughput studies.

Keywords: Glycerophosphocholine; Identification; Lipidomics; Liquid chromatography; Plasma; Quantification; Sphingomyelin; Tandem mass spectrometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Humans
  • Lipidomics*
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Molecular Structure
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Lipids