Carbohydrate research

Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry for the analysis of monosulfated oligosaccharides.

PMID 9403991


Sulfated oligosaccharides are an important class of compounds in the field of glycobiology. Mass spectrometric analysis of these molecules is challenging due to their readiness to dissociate in sample preparation and their tendency to fragment during ionization. Moreover, their presence in small quantity in biological systems poses additional problems. We report the development of a mass spectrometric method based on matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) in a time-lag focusing time-of-flight mass spectrometer for the analysis of monosulfated oligosaccharides. It is found that coumarin 120 is an excellent matrix for the analysis of monosulfated disaccharides, whereas the use of a mixture of coumarin 120 and 6-aza-2-thiothymine is very effective for the ionization of sulfated trisaccharides and tetrasaccharides including those containing N-acetylneuraminic acid. Molecular ions for a series of synthetic sulfo/sialo beta Gal(1-->3)GlcNAc and beta Gal(1-->4)GlcNAc structures can thus be observed with subpicomole detection sensitivity using a uniform microcrystal matrix/sample preparation procedure. It is demonstrated that, with this matrix formulation, the presence of a high amount of sodium chloride or sodium phosphate buffer, which is often the case for the HPLC fractionated samples, does not deteriorate the MALDI performance. The analysis of mixtures containing different types of oligosaccharides is also examined. It is found that different classes of oligosaccharides require different matrix preparation methods.