Mass spectrometric analysis of neutral sphingolipids: methods, applications, and limitations.
ABSTRACT Sphingolipids represent an important class among lipids, especially when considering their vital roles in lipid metabolism. Thus, a variety of methods have been created to accomplish their analysis and the term "sphingolipidomics" has recently been coined to underline the motivation to enable a comprehensive analysis of all sphingolipid species including the acidic and the neutral ones. In this review, we summarize selected mainly biomedical based mass spectrometric approaches for the analysis of neutral sphingolipids regarding their advantages, applications and limitations. To underline some practical aspects of method development, we focus on a new method recently developed in our laboratory, which enables separation, detection, and mass spectrometric profiling of ceramide, hexosylceramide, lactosylceramide, globotriaosylceramide, globotetraosylceramide, sphingomyelin species, and cholesterol in one run. This method can be applied to investigate impairments of neutral sphingolipid metabolism in a variety of disorders such as sphingolipidoses and be employed to screen for sphingolipid profile changes as induced by knockout experiments or related studies.