Ion mobility-mass spectrometry of complex carbohydrates: Collision cross sections of sodiated N-linked glycans
Pagel, K.*; Harvey, D.J. – 2013
Currently, the vast majority of complex carbohydrates are characterized using mass spectrometry (MS)-based techniques. Measuring the molecular mass of a sugar, however, immediately poses a fundamental problem: entire classes of the constituting monosaccharide building blocks exhibit an identical atomic composition and, consequently, also an identical mass. Therefore, carbohydrate MS data can be highly ambiguous and often it is simply not possible to clearly assign a particular molecular structure. A promising approach to overcome the above-mentioned limitation is to implement an additional gas-phase separation dimension using ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), which is a method in which molecules of identical mass and structure but different structure can be separated according to their shape and collision cross section (CCS). With the emergence of commercially available hybrid ion mobility–mass spectrometry (IM-MS) instruments in 2006, IMS technology became readily available. Because of the nonhomogeneous, traveling wave (TW) field utilized in these instruments, however, CCS values currently cannot be determined directly from the drift times measured. Instead, an external calibration using compounds of known CCS and similar molecular identity is required. Here, we report a calibration protocol for TW IMS instruments using a series of sodiated N-glycans that were released from commercially available glycoproteins using an easy-to-follow protocol. The underlying CCS values were determined using a modified Synapt HDMS instrument with a linear drift tube, which was described in detail previously. Our data indicate that, under in-source fragmentation conditions, only a few glycans are required to obtain a TW IMS calibration of sufficient quality. In this context, however, the type of glycan was shown to be of tremendous importance. Furthermore, our data clearly demonstrate that carbohydrate isomers with identical mass but different conformation can be distinguished based on their CCS when all the associated errors are taken into account.