Assessing the Use of Host-Guest Chemistry in Conjunction with Cyclic Ion Mobility Separations for the Linkage-Specific Characterization of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

Int J Mass Spectrom. 2023 Jan:483:116977. doi: 10.1016/j.ijms.2022.116977. Epub 2022 Nov 14.


Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are a class of glycans that are highly abundant in human milk and contribute to the healthy growth of an infant's immune system. While new advancements in analytical methodologies have been made in glycomics, the high degree of isomeric heterogeneity and lack of authentic standards have made the high-resolution separation and accurate characterization of linkage positioning of all HMO species very challenging. Herein, we present an evaluation of the use of host-guest chemistry in conjunction with cyclic ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry (cIMS-MS)-based separations for the identification of linkage positioning in three pairs of di-, tetra-, and hexasaccharide HMO isomers that only differ in the positioning of one glycosidic linkage (β1,3 versus β1,4). Suitable hosts, such as α/β cyclodextrins, cucurbit[n]urils (n = 5, 7), crown ethers, cyclic peptides, and an ionophore, were used to assess host-guest inclusion complex formation as well as linkage-specific cIMS-MS trends. Our results indicated a linkage-specific trend for the [M + 2α + 2H]2+ cyclodextrin-based host-guest inclusion complexes where the β1,3 linkage-containing isomers were always higher mobility than the β1,4 linkage-containing ones as well one for the [M + α + β + 2H]2+ complexes where the β1,4 linkage-containing isomers were always higher mobility than the β1,3 linkage-containing ones. We also observed diagnostic mobility fingerprints for the cucurbituril-based complexes. We anticipate that linkage-specific and mobility fingerprint trends can potentially aid in identifying linkage positioning for other HMO isomers as well as in complex human milk samples.

Keywords: Host-guest chemistry; cyclic ion mobility separations; human milk oligosaccharides.