Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

Laser-induced oxidation of cholesterol observed during MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry.

PMID 21472605


Conditions for the detection of three odd-electron cholesterol oxidation peaks were determined and these peaks were shown to be artifacts of the matrix-assisted laser desorption time of flight (MALDI-TOF) process. Matrix choice, solvent, laser intensity and cholesterol concentration were systematically varied to characterize the conditions leading to the highest signals of the radical cation peaks, and it was found that initial cholesterol solution concentration and resultant density of solid cholesterol on the MALDI target were important parameters in determining signal intensities. It is proposed that hydroxyl radicals, generated as a result of laser irradiation of the employed 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) matrix, initiate cholesterol oxidation on the MALDI target. An attempt to induce the odd-electron oxidation peaks by means of adding an oxidizing agent succeeded using an acetonitrile solution of DHB, cholesterol, and cumene hydroperoxide. Moreover, addition of free radical scavengers reduced the abundances of some oxidation products under certain conditions. These results are consistent with the mechanism of oxidation proposed herein involving laser-induced hydroxyl radical production followed by attack on neutral cholesterol. Hydroxyl radical production upon irradiation of dithranol matrix may also be responsible for generation of the same radical peaks observed from cholesterol in dithranol by an analogous mechanism.