Surface acoustic wave nebulization facilitating lipid mass spectrometric analysis.
ABSTRACT Surface acoustic wave nebulization (SAWN) is a novel method to transfer nonvolatile analytes directly from the aqueous phase to the gas phase for mass spectrometric analysis. The lower ion energetics of SAWN and its planar nature make it appealing for analytically challenging lipid samples. This challenge is a result of their amphipathic nature, labile nature, and tendency to form aggregates, which readily precipitate clogging capillaries used for electrospray ionization (ESI). Here, we report the use of SAWN to characterize the complex glycolipid, lipid A, which serves as the membrane anchor component of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and has a pronounced tendency to clog nano-ESI capillaries. We also show that unlike ESI SAWN is capable of ionizing labile phospholipids without fragmentation. Lastly, we compare the ease of use of SAWN to the more conventional infusion-based ESI methods and demonstrate the ability to generate higher order tandem mass spectral data of lipid A for automated structure assignment using our previously reported hierarchical tandem mass spectrometry (HiTMS) algorithm. The ease of generating SAWN-MS(n) data combined with HiTMS interpretation offers the potential for high throughput lipid A structure analysis.