Complete Structural Elucidation of Triacylglycerols by Tandem Sector Mass Spectrometry

Changfu Cheng, Michael L. Gross, Ernst Pittenauer

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We developed a method to elucidate the complete structure of triacylglycerols by means of high-energy collisional activation tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). Both ESI- and FAB-produced [M + NH4]+ and [M + met.]+ ions (where met. = Li, Na, and Cs) of triacylglycerols undergo charge-remote and charge-driven fragmentations. We emphasize the study of fragment ions from ESI-produced [M + NH4]+ and [M + Na]+ ions and FAB-produced [M + Na]+ ions. ESI-produced [M + NH4]+ ions fragment to produce four types of ions, [M + NH4 - RnCOONH4]+, [RnCO + 128]+, [RnCO + 74]+, and RnCO+ ions, from which the carbon number and the degree of unsaturation of each acyl group are obtained. In addition, three series of ions are produced by charge-remote fragmentations (CRFs), and analysis of their patterns gives the position and the number of double bonds on the acyl groups. Information about the position of each acyl group on the glycerol backbone, however, is not provided by collisionally activated dissociation of [M + NH4]+ ions. On the other hand, ESI- and FAB-produced [M + Na]+ ions fragment to form eight types of ions (named A-J ions) that, like those produced by CRF, are highly structurally informative. The absence of certain series members also carries useful structural information. Interpretation of these patterns enables one to obtain the number of carbons, degrees of unsaturation, and location of double bonds, as well as the positions of acyl groups on the glycerol backbone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4417-4426
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 1998


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