Chasing the Major Sphingolipids on Earth: Automated Annotation of Plant Glycosyl Inositol Phospho Ceramides by Glycolipidomics

Metabolites. 2020 Sep 19;10(9):375. doi: 10.3390/metabo10090375.


Glycosyl inositol phospho ceramides (GIPCs) are the major sphingolipids on earth, as they account for a considerable fraction of the total lipids in plants and fungi, which in turn represent a large portion of the biomass on earth. Despite their obvious importance, GIPC analysis remains challenging due to the lack of commercial standards and automated annotation software. In this work, we introduce a novel GIPC glycolipidomics workflow based on reversed-phase ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry. For the first time, automated GIPC assignment was performed using the open-source software Lipid Data Analyzer (LDA), based on platform-independent decision rules. Four different plant samples (salad, spinach, raspberry, and strawberry) were analyzed and the results revealed 64 GIPCs based on accurate mass, characteristic MS2 fragments and matching retention times. Relative quantification using lactosyl ceramide for internal standardization revealed GIPC t18:1/h24:0 as the most abundant species in all plants. Depending on the plant sample, GIPCs contained mainly amine, N-acetylamine or hydroxyl residues. Most GIPCs revealed a Hex-HexA-IPC core and contained a ceramide part with a trihydroxylated t18:0 or a t18:1 long chain base and hydroxylated fatty acid chains ranging from 16 to 26 carbon atoms in length (h16:0-h26:0). Interestingly, four GIPCs containing t18:2 were observed in the raspberry sample, which was not reported so far. The presented workflow supports the characterization of different plant samples by automatic GIPC assignment, potentially leading to the identification of new GIPCs. For the first time, automated high-throughput profiling of these complex glycolipids is possible by liquid chromatography-high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry and subsequent automated glycolipid annotation based on decision rules.

Keywords: GIPC; LC-MS; Lipid Data Analyzer; automated annotation; glycolipidomics; glycosyl inositol phospho ceramides; high-resolution mass spectrometry; lipidomics; sphingolipids; ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography.