Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

Signal enhancement of abiotically-synthesized RNA oligonucleotides and other biopolymers using unmodified fused silica in MALDI-MS.

PMID 21953051


Metal is the standard desorption platform for MALDI-MS but other surfaces have been shown to offer advantages for particular types of analytes or applications. One such substrate is fused silica, which has been employed for matrix-free detection of low mass analytes and for affinity MALDI-MS in which binding ligands are immobilized at the fused silica surface. The present work reports improved MALDI-MS detection of RNA oligonucleotides, including polyA, polyU, and polyA/U, at the high end of the mass range when unmodified fused silica is used instead of stainless steel as the MALDI target. The RNA oligonucleotides were abiotically synthesized from activated monomers on catalytic clay surfaces. Further investigation found enhanced signals as well for other anionic biopolymers, including DNA oligonucleotides and heparin. Enhancement also was observed for dextran, which is neutral, indicating that the effect is not restricted to anionic biopolymers. Among more general analytical applications, the results are particularly relevant to rapid screening of abiotic RNA polymerization toward elucidating pathways to life on Earth.

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