Characterization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Mycolic Acids by Multiple-Stage Linear Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometry

Cheryl Frankfater, Hideji Fujiwara, Spencer J. Williams, Adriaan Minnaard, Fong Fu Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) cells are known to synthesize very long chain (C60–90) structurally complex mycolic acids with various functional groups. In this study, we applied linear ion-trap (LIT) multiple-stage mass spectrometry (MSn), combined with high-resolution mass spectrometry to study the mechanisms underlying the fragmentation processes of mycolic acid standards desorbed as lithiated adduct ions by ESI. This is followed by structural characterization of a Mtb mycolic acid family (Bovine strain). Using the insight fragmentation processes gained from the study, we are able to achieve a near complete characterization of the whole mycolic acid family, revealing the identity of the α-alkyl chain, the location of the functional groups including methyl, methoxy, and keto groups along the meroaldehyde chain in each lipid species. This study showcased the power of LIT MSn toward structural determination of complex lipids in a mixture, which would be otherwise very difficult to define using other analytical techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-159
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2022


  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • cell envelope lipids
  • high resolution mass spectrometry
  • linear ion trap mass spectrometry
  • mycolic acids


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