Carbohydrate molecular weight profiling, sequence, linkage, and branching data: ES-MS and CID

Anal Chem. 1995 Jun 1;67(11):1772-84. doi: 10.1021/ac00107a005.


This section summarizes several strategies for a more complete understanding of carbohydrate structure with a focus on glycolipids and glycoprotein glycans. The techniques include periodate oxidation to impart greater molecular specificity to isomeric glycans, methylation to improve sensitivity and the information content within CID spectra, electrospray for "soft" and efficient ionization, and CID to obtain structural detail. The lipophilicity of the products following derivatization contributes to product cleanup by solvent extraction and enhances sensitivity during ES. When combined with CID information, this yields sequence, linkage, and branching information. Oxidation and reduction preceding methylation augments CID analysis with an altered structure that can be profiled at the same sensitivity. Within the context of established motifs, these contrasting profiles corroborate glycan structure and specifically identify isobaric elements transparent in the initial profile. An earlier report indicating ring-opening fragments were essentially absent in low-energy collisions of methylated and natriated oligosaccharides contrasts our observations. However, as this report used a methylated oligomer containing an internal N-acetylhexose as an illustration, the conclusion is plausible (cf., Figure 9). The poor ionization efficiency of FAB and the high matrix background limit the dynamic range in the CID spectrum and, thereby, the ability to unambiguously identify weaker peaks. It would be expected that high-energy CID affords a broader range of fragment types, including ring-opening fragments. In terms of a structural methodology, this is ambivalent since the increase in fragmentation pathways also applies to small molecule eliminations which are usually less informative. In ES-CID-MS, the carbohydrate chemist has a powerful new tool in hand for structural elucidations that can be conducted at the low-picomole level. Parallel developments can be expected to continue for other ionization methods, in particular matrix-assisted desorption/ionization on linear and reflectron time of flight mass spectrometers, and improvement in the performance and sensitivity of high-resolution mass analyzers through the use of focal plane detectors and more sophisticated hardware and software for Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass measurements. These have, as yet, only begun to be applied to carbohydrate structural analysis but should add still more versatility to experimental design in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry*
  • Glycoconjugates / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry


  • Carbohydrates
  • Glycoconjugates
  • Polysaccharides