The Analyst

CuFe2O4 magnetic nanocrystal clusters as a matrix for the analysis of small molecules by negative-ion matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

PMID 26086699


CuFe2O4 magnetic nanocrystal clusters (CuFe2O4 MNCs) were proposed as a new matrix for small molecule analysis by negative ion matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) for the first time. We demonstrated its advantages over conventional organic matrices in the detection of small molecules such as amino acids, peptides, nucleobases, fatty acids, and steroid hormones. A systematic comparison of CuFe2O4 MNCs with different ionization modes revealed that MS spectra obtained for the CuFe2O4 MNC matrix in the negative ion mode was only featured by deprotonated ion peaks with a free matrix background, which was different from the complicated alkali metal adducts produced in the positive ion mode. The developed method was found relatively tolerant to salt contamination and exhibited good reproducibility. A detection limit down to the subpicomolar level was achieved when testosterone was analyzed. In addition, by comparison of the MS spectra obtained from bare Fe3O4 and MFe2O4 MNC (M = Co, Ni, Cu, Zn) matrices, two main factors of MFe2O4 MNC matrices were revealed to play a vital role in assisting the negative ion desorption/ionization (D/I) process: doping transition metals into ferrite nanocrystals favoring laser absorption and energy transfer and a good match between the UV absorption of MFe2O4 MNCs and the excitation of nitrogen laser source facilitating LDI efficiency. This work creates a new branch of application for MFe2O4 MNCs and provides an alternative solution for small molecule analysis.