Fast Quantification Without Conventional Chromatography, The Growing Power of Mass Spectrometry

Anal Chem. 2020 Jul 7;92(13):8628-8637. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c00877. Epub 2020 Jun 24.


Mass spectrometry (MS) in hyphenated techniques is widely accepted as the gold standard quantitative tool in life sciences. However, MS possesses intrinsic analytical capabilities that allow it to be a stand-alone quantitative technique, particularly with current technological advancements. MS has a great potential for simplifying quantitative analysis without the need for tedious chromatographic separation. Its selectivity relies on multistage MS analysis (MSn), including tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), as well as the ever-growing advancements of high-resolution MS instruments. This perspective describes various analytical platforms that utilize MS as a stand-alone quantitative technique, namely, flow injection analysis (FIA), matrix assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI), including MALDI-MS imaging and ion mobility, particularly high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS). When MS alone is not capable of providing reliable quantitative data, instead of conventional liquid chromatography (LC)-MS, the use of a guard column (i.e., fast chromatography) may be sufficient for quantification. Although the omission of chromatographic separation simplifies the analytical process, extra procedures may be needed during sample preparation and clean-up to address the issue of matrix effects. The discussion of this manuscript focuses on key parameters underlying the uniqueness of each technique for its application in quantitative analysis without the need for a chromatographic separation. In addition, the potential for each analytical strategy and its challenges are discussed as well as improvements needed to render them as mainstream quantitative analytical tools. Overcoming the hurdles for fully validating a quantitative method will allow MS alone to eventually become an indispensable quantitative tool for clinical and toxicological studies.