Use of ion pairing reagents for sensitive detection and separation of phospholipids in the positive ion mode LC-ESI-MS

Edra Dodbiba, Chengdong Xu, Tharanga Payagala, Eranda Wanigasekara, Myeong Hee Moon, Daniel W. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Phospholipids make up one of the more important classes of biological molecules. Because of their amphipathic nature and their charge state (e.g., negatively charged or zwitterionic) detection of trace levels of these compounds can be problematic. Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) is used in this study to detect very small amounts of these analytes by using the positive ion mode and pairing them with fifteen different cationic ion pairing reagents. The phospholipids used in this analysis were phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), phosphatidylcholine (PC), phosphatidylglycerol (PG), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidic acid (PA), 1,2-diheptanoyl-sn- glycero-3-phosphocholine (DHPC), cardiolipin (CA) and sphingosyl phosphoethanolamine (SPE). The analysis of these molecules was carried out in the single ion monitoring (SIM) positive mode. In addition to their detection, a high performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) method was developed in which the phospholipids were separated and detected simultaneously within a very short period of time. Separation of phospholipids was developed in the reverse phase mode and in the hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) mode HPLC. Their differences and impact on the sensitivity of the analytes are compared and discussed further in the paper. With this technique, limits of detection (LODs) were very easily recorded at low ppt (ng L-1) levels with many of the cationic ion pairing reagents used in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1586-1593
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Apr 21

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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