Identification of unusual phospholipids from bovine heart mitochondria by HPLC-MS/MS

J Lipid Res. 2020 Dec;61(12):1707-1719. doi: 10.1194/jlr.RA120001044. Epub 2020 Sep 30.


Phospholipids, including ether phospholipids, are composed of numerous isomeric and isobaric species that have the same backbone and acyl chains. This structural resemblance results in similar fragmentation patterns by collision-induced dissociation of phospholipids regardless of class, yielding complicated MS/MS spectra when isobaric species are analyzed together. Furthermore, the presence of isobaric species can lead to misassignment of species when made solely based on their molecular weights. In this study, we used normal-phase HPLC for ESI-MS/MS analysis of phospholipids from bovine heart mitochondria. Class separation by HPLC eliminates chances for misidentification of isobaric species from different classes of phospholipids. Chromatography yields simple MS/MS spectra without interference from isobaric species, allowing clear identification of peaks corresponding to fragmented ions containing monoacylglycerol backbone derived from losing one acyl chain. Using these fragmented ions, we characterized individual and isomeric species in each class of mitochondrial phospholipids, including unusual species, such as PS, containing an ether linkage and species containing odd-numbered acyl chains in cardiolipin, PS, PI, and PG. We also characterized monolysocardiolipin and dilysocardiolipin, the least abundant but nevertheless important mitochondrial phospholipids. The results clearly show the power of HPLC-MS/MS for identification and characterization of phospholipids, including minor species.

Keywords: acyl chain; cardiolipin; collision-induced dissociation; ether phospholipids; high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; lipidomics; odd-numbered acyl chain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid*
  • Mitochondria, Heart / chemistry*
  • Phospholipids / analysis*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Phospholipids