Rapid Resolution of Carbohydrate Isomers by
Electrospray Ionization Ambient Pressure Ion
Mobility Spectrometry-Time-of-Flight Mass
Prabha Dwivedi 1, Brad Bendiak2, Brian H. Clowers1 and Herbert H. Hill Jr.1, *
1 Department of Chemistry, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4630
1 Center for Multiphase Environmental Research, Washington State University, Pullman,
2 Cell and Developmental Biology and Biomolecular Structure Program, University of
Colorado Health Sciences Center, Fitzsimons Campus, Aurora, Colorado 80045
Submitted to Journal of American Society of Mass Spectrometry
Resubmitted December 2006
Resubmitted April 2007
• Correspondence: Herbert H. Hill; e-mail: email@example.com
• Phone: 509-335-5648; Fax: 509-335-8867
Carbohydrates are an extremely complex group of isomeric molecules that
have been difficult to analyze in the gas phase by mass spectrometry because (1)
precursor ions and product ions to successive stages of MSn are frequently
mixtures of isomers and (2) detailed information about the anomeric
configuration and location of specific stereochemical variants of
monosaccharides within larger molecules has not been possible to obtain in a
general way. Herein, it is demonstrated that gas phase analyses by direct
combination of electrospray ionization, ambient pressure ion mobility
spectrometry, and time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ESI-APIMS-TOFMS)
provides sufficient resolution to separate different anomeric methyl glycosides
and to separate different stereoisomeric methyl glycosides having the same
anomeric configuration. Reducing sugars were typically resolved into more than
one peak, which might represent separation of cyclic species having different
anomeric configurations and/or ring forms. The extent of separation, both with
methyl glycosides and reducing sugars, was significantly affected by the nature
of the drift gas and by the nature of an adducting metal ion or ion complex. The
study demonstrated that ESI-APIMS-TOFMS is a rapid and effective analytical
technique for the separation of isomeric methyl glycosides and simple sugars
and can be used to differentiate glycosides having different anomeric
Oligosaccharides, either alone or as glycoconjugates are actively involved
in numerous biological phenomena such as cell-cell recognition, embryonic
development, and differentiation.[1-5] Understanding their functional roles
requires a detailed knowledge of their structures. Mass spectrometry has long
been an important tool for analysis of oligosaccharides [6-8] but two crucial
issues remain a challenge for enabling its use in structural elucidation of
First, the inability to rapidly and unambiguously discriminate isomeric
monosaccharides is a major impediment in the structural characterization of
glycans. There are 16 D- and L- aldohexoses, for example, and 8 D- and L-
ketoses. They can exist in 2 anomeric configurations and 2 ring forms within an
oligosaccharide in nature, yielding a total of 96 configurations, all having an
identical m/z. When mass spectrometry is applied as a rapid gas phase analytical
tool stereochemical variants often dissociate to yield essentially identical mass
spectra. Mass spectrometric discrimination of such isomers is thus often aided
by one or more pre-mass analysis separation steps and the rapid nature of the
technique is compromised. For example, individual monosaccharides obtained
as hydrolysis products of oligosaccharides are best analyzed as linear derivatives
such as aldononitrile acetates, 1-deoxy-1-hydrazino-alditol acetates or partially
methylated alditol acetates.[9-11] Since the fragmentation patterns of different
stereoisomers of the derivatives are often similar, unambiguous identification of
stereochemical variants is achieved through one or more pre-mass analysis
chromatographic separation steps in tandem to the MS analysis, such as GC-MS.
However, following hydrolysis, no information can be gleaned about the
anomeric configuration of the sugar or about its location within the original
oligosaccharide molecule. This requires that oligosaccharides be manipulated in
a controlled disassembly through multiple isolation/dissociation steps in the gas
phase, whereupon at some later dissociation step a monosaccharide product ion
at any stage of MSn might be isolated to identify its stereochemistry. This,
however, is entirely a different feat than an up-front chromatographic separation.
While some modern mass spectrometers such as ion traps and Fourier transform
ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) instruments are ideally suited to multiple
isolation/dissociation steps, one ultimately faces the inevitable question: “If
selection of ions is based solely on m/z, how can two isomers that produce
essentially identical dissociation patterns be discriminated, as occurs with
anomeric (α and β) monosaccharide product ions?” One answer to this may be
ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) which separates gas phase ions based on their
size to charge ratio.[12, 13] When coupled to the back end of a mass
spectrometer IMS might be utilized to separate isolated monosaccharide product
ions or potentially other small ions generated by disaccharide dissociation
immediately preceding an IMS step. However, prior to this becoming feasible,
another fundamental question must be addressed. “Can gas phase separation
based on size to charge ratio (IMS) be exploited to differentiate gas-phase
monosaccharide anomers or even small anomeric glycosides such as methyl
glycosides?” It is also worth noting that other product ions larger than
monosaccharides may be generated during multiple isolation/dissociation steps
and they may be isomeric in nature. This is particularly true of many branched
oligosaccharides where relatively large isomeric product ions can arise from
A second nettlesome problem in oligosaccharide analysis is that many
samples from unknown sources are mixtures of isomeric oligosaccharides.[14-17]
While chromatographic separations (i.e.-HPLC) have been utilized for some time
to isolate oligosaccharides, isomeric molecules usually prove the most difficult to
separate and they require some sort of evaluation of isomeric heterogeneity, for which
NMR has been well-suited in the past. However, well below NMR levels
(currently about 500 pmol is the minimum for 1D NMR spectra), how can one be
certain that a chromatographic peak is ever one isomer? Failure to evaluate
isomeric heterogeneity risks deduction of a single (assumed) structure from data derived
from a mixture of molecules. Recently, this issue has been addressed [18, 19] using
mixtures of isomeric permethylated oligosaccharides and MSn. These
investigators demonstrated that isomers having different linkages may be
predictably identified in mixtures because at some stage during MSn
disassembly, different dissociation patterns are anticipated from substructures.
This will no doubt be a valuable approach, even with underivatized
oligosaccharides.[20, 21] However, replacement of a single sugar in an
oligosaccharide with its anomer or epimer (for example, an α-Glc with a β-Glc, or
a GlcNAc with a GalNAc), would in many cases render them impossible to
evaluate as a mixture with their anomeric or epimeric counterparts using typical
gas-phase dissociation methods. This remains a serious problem because they
yield sets of substructures after every round of dissociation where subsequent
fragmentation of any given isolated ion m/z furnishes identical product ion m/z values.
There are many examples of such isomeric mixtures [14-17] and IMS coupled to
mass spectrometers (in this case at the front end) [22-24] may provide a route for
evaluation of their heterogeneity that is complementary to fragmentation.
Again, this assumes that IMS of high enough resolution is available and is
flexible enough to resolve many such isomers.
Since its inception in 1970 under the name plasma chromatography, 
IMS has evolved as a rapid gas-phase separation technique. It surpasses the
resolving power of liquid chromatography and is similar to that of gas
chromatography. Being a gas-phase separation technique, the time required for
an IMS experiment is in the millisecond (ms) time range which markedly reduces
analysis time and increases sample throughput. Only a few studies involving the
application of IMS to carbohydrates have been reported.[26-31] None of these
studies have demonstrated the separation of anomeric glycosides such as simple
methyl glycosides or separation of isomers of reducing monosaccharides
themselves potentially representing different anomers or ring forms of the ions.
Some di- and trisaccharides have been resolved, both by high-field asymmetric
waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) using decanoic acid derivatives
 or recently using ambient pressure IMS. 
It is demonstrated here for the first time that high-resolution IMS at
ambient pressure can resolve anomeric methyl glycosides, and that the extent of
separation varies with the nature of a complexing ion and the IMS drift gas. It is
also reported that free reducing sugars as metal ion adducts can resolve into
more than one peak. Additional peaks may represent different anomeric
configurations or ring forms of the reducing sugars.
The instrument used in this study was an electrospray ionization ambient
pressure ion mobility spectrometer coupled to an orthogonal time-of-flight mass
spectrometer (ESI-APIMS-TOFMS). The details of APIMS and TOFMS along with
the data acquisition system are reported in a previous publication. 
The ion mobility spectrometer with basic stacked-ring design [33, 34] was
used in this study and constructed at Washington State University. The APIMS
tube consisted of alternating alumina spacers and stainless steel rings with high
temperature resistors connecting the stainless steel rings (500 kΩ resisters for the
desolvation region, 1MΩ resisters for the drift region). Ions were gated into the
drift region of the IMS tube by a Bradbury-Nielsen type ion gate which also
divided the IMS tube into a desolvation region and a drift region. The drift gas
(nitrogen, unless otherwise noted) was introduced at a flow rate of ~1300
mL/min at the end of the drift tube thus flowing against the electric field gradient
created by the resistors. The temperature of the IMS tube was maintained at
200°C during all experiments.
ESI solvent (methanol/water/acetic acid, 49.5/49.5/1) was introduced by a
KD Scientific 210 syringe pump (New Hope, PA) at a flow rate of 3µL/min into a
25 cm long, 50µm inner diameter silica capillary. This capillary was then
connected to a 10 cm long, 50µm inner diameter silica capillary through a zero
dead volume stainless steel internal fitting (Valco Instruments Co. Inc.). The
other end of the 10cm capillary was centered ~0.5cm from the target screen of the
APIMS. To generate electrospray, a positive high voltage of 3.00 kV greater than
that on the IMS target screen was applied at the internal fitting.
The time-of-flight mass spectrometer and supporting electronics were
designed and constructed at Ionwerks Inc., Houston. The APIMS was interfaced
to the TOFMS through a 250 µm aperture. A series of ion lenses guided the ions
from the aperture to the extraction region of the time-of-flight analyzer. The ions
were then extracted orthogonally, accelerated into the TOF drift tube, and
detected by a microchannel plate detector (Burle electro-optics Inc.) The detector
signal, acquired by a time-to-digital converter (Ionwerks), was then processed by
IDL Virtual machine based software. The mass spectrometer was calibrated in
positive ion mode with different amines and amino acids and optimized to a full
width at half height resolution of ~1000 at an m/z value of 108.09 for 2, 4-lutidine.
2.2 Chemicals and Solvents
All carbohydrate standards (methyl-α-D-galactopyranoside (α-MeGal),
methyl-β-D-galactopyranoside (β-MeGal), methyl-α-D-glucopyranoside (α-
MeGlc), methyl-β-D-glucopyranoside (β-MeGlc), methyl-α-D-mannopyranoside
(α-MeMan) and methyl-β-D-mannopyranoside (α-MeMan), ribose, xylose,
glucose, fructose, isomaltose, maltose, and sucrose) used in this study were
purchased from Sigma-Aldrich (Sigma Aldrich Chemical Co. St. Louis, MO). The
salts used in the experiments were also purchased from Sigma-Aldrich. High
performance liquid chromatography grade solvents (methanol, water and acetic
acid) were purchased from J. T. Baker (Phillipsburgh, NJ). ESI solvent was used
to prepare 50µM and 100 µM solutions of sugar and salt respectively which were
mixed in equal volumes when analyzed.
2.3 IMS Theory
IMS separates ions on the basis of the differences in their mobility K
(cm2V-1 s-1) while the ions are drifting through a drift gas in a weak homogenous
electric field gradient. The mobility of an ion through the drift region of the IMS
is given as the ratio of the average ion velocity (vd = L/td) to the applied electric
field (E = V/L)
where, L is the length of the drift region in cm, td is the drift time in seconds
(defined as the time an ion takes to travel through the drift region), and V is the
voltage applied to the ion gate in volts. Under different experimental conditions
such as temperature, pressure and electric field, variations in ion mobility values
are observed and thus for comparative purposes “the reduced mobility value,
K0” of an ion is calculated using equation 2. Under different experimental
conditions the K0 value of an ion remains constant with a standard deviation of ±
0.02 cm2V-1s-1 and is defined as follows:
The mode and type of interactions between the ion and the drift gas
depend on the configurational and conformational structure of both the ion and
the drift gas and along with the collision dynamics defines the collision cross
section of an ion. The average ion-neutral collision cross section (Ω) is measured
by using the equation:
where, NA is the number density of the drift gas in molecules per cm3, µ
[=mM/(m+M)] is the reduced mass in kilograms of an ion of mass m g/mol and
the neutral drift gas of M g/mol, k is Boltzmann’s constant in J/K, z is the number
of the charge(s) on the ion, e is the charge of one proton in coulombs and K is the
mobility of the ion in cm2 V-1 s-1. Number density NA is calculated as NA = (P/ k T)
where P is the ambient pressure in atmospheres, k is the Boltzmann’s constant in
L*atm. / K and T is the temperature in Kelvin.
Resolving power in IMS is defined by the ratio of the drift time to the peak
width (in time) at half height (Rp = td/wh). Resolution in IMS is defined
analogously to that in chromatography, which is the difference in the drift time
of two ion mobility peaks divided by their average peak width. [Rs = 2(td2 –
td1)/(w1+ w2)]. Resolving power gives no information on the ability of two
isomers to separate at all. For example, a TOFMS instrument could be described
as having a high “resolving power”, yet no “resolution” of isomers because they
have the exact same m/z value and thus cannot be differentiated by TOFMS.
Results and Discussion
3.1 Resolution of anomeric isomers of monosaccharide methyl glycosides
To investigate whether APIMS could separate anomeric isomers of
monosaccharides, methyl hexopyranosides were examined. Glycosides were
used to avoid any potential interconversions between anomeric (α- and β-) or
ring (pyranose and furanose) configurations. Their analysis by ESI-APIMS-
TOFMS showed that sodium adducts (m/z 217) were the most abundant ion even
when no sodium was added to the sugar solution. Less abundant ions identified
as [M+H3O]+, m/z 213, [M+H]+, m/z 195, [M-(CH3O)]+, m/z 163, [M+K]+, m/z 233 and
[M+K+H2O]+, m/z 251 were also detected. Ions at m/z 195 and 163 were the
fragments of the protonated glycoside at m/z 213 generated at APIMS-TOFMS
interface since they all had the same drift time. The average standard deviation
in the drift times of ions for three runs was 0.04ms.
Solutions of methyl pyranosides with cobalt acetate showed that cobalt
always adducted to the glycosides as a singly charged cobalt acetate, [M +
Co(CH3COO)]+, observed at m/z 312. Background ions and clusters solely
resulting from the addition of cobalt acetate to the ESI solvent were also
identified as [Co(CH3COO)2H]+, m/z 178, [Co(CH3COO)2H3O]+, m/z 196,
[Co2(CH3COO)3]+, m/z 295, and [Co2(CH3COO)4H3O]+, m/z 373. Anomeric methyl
galactopyranosides were also examined in the presence of Ag+, Ca+2, Cu+2, Hg+2,
and Pb+2 as the acetate salts, and Co+2 and Pb+2 as the acetylacetonate salts.
Results with methyl glycosides run individually and as mixtures of anomeric
and other isomeric pairs are described in the following sections and are
summarized in Tables 1, 2, and 3.
3.1.1 Methyl-α-D-galactopyranoside and methyl-β-D-galactopyranoside:
A two-dimensional contour plot of an APIMS-MS experiment performed
using N2 as the drift gas with a mixture of anomeric methyl galactosides is
shown in Figure 1. Peaks at m/z 217 (Fig. 1A) were sodium adducts and peaks at
m/z 312 (Fig. 1B) were cobalt acetate adducts. Although the separation was better
between sodium adducts, APIMS afforded high enough resolution with either
salt adduct to enable anomers to be unambiguously identified. Drift times of the
methyl galactosides run individually as either sodium or cobalt acetate adducts
are presented in Table 1.
3.1.2 Methyl-α-glucopyranoside and methyl-β-glucopyranoside:
A 2D IMS-MS spectrum of a mixture of methyl-α- and β-glucopyranosides
illustrating the separation of anomers as sodium and cobalt acetate adducts is
shown in Figure 2, again using N2 as the drift gas. Drift times of the anomers run
individually as either adduct are presented in Table 1. It is worth noting in a
comparison of Figures 1 and 2 that the sodium adducts of anomeric methyl
glucopyranosides were only partially separated by IMS but the cobalt acetate
adducts were baseline separated, whereas the opposite was the case for the
3.1.3 Methyl-α-D-mannopyranoside and methyl-β-D-mannopyranoside:
Like the methyl-glucopyranoside and -galactopyranoside anomeric pairs,
the methyl-mannopyranosides were also resolved by APIMS-MS (Table 1).
Using N2 gas, the sodium adducts were not resolved (or two peaks were just
barely discernable) and the [M + Co(CH3COO)]+ ion peaks were only partially
resolved. Better separation of this anomeric pair was achieved using different
drift gases as shown later in this article.
3.2 Resolution of isomeric monosaccharide methyl glycosides differing in the
stereochemistry at positions other than the anomeric carbon.
Figure 3 shows separations of two sets of methyl glycosides varying in the
stereochemistry of a single asymmetric carbon other than at the anomeric
position. For example, α-MeGlc and α-MeMan, two epimers that vary only in
the asymmetry at the C2-position, were baseline resolved as sodium adducts
using N2 as the drift gas (Fig. 3A). Similarly, β-MeGal and β-MeGlc, epimeric at
the C4-position, were resolved (Fig. 3B). The drift times of the individual
monosaccharides and the experimental conditions are reported in Table 2. Note
that conditions for these separations were different than reported in Table 1
hence different drift times were observed.
Further analysis of the data listed in Table 1 revealed the following: (1)
adducts of α-methyl glycosides with either sodium or cobalt acetate, without
exception, drifted longer times than the β-anomers. (2) Cobalt acetate adducts
invariably had longer drift times than the sodium adducts, and (3) drift time
differences between anomers were dependent on both the stereochemistry of the
sugars and the nature of adducts.
Based on drift times of the cobalt acetate adducts (Table 1) and the inverse
relationship between ion mobility and collision cross section (equation 3), the
collision cross sections (CCS) of the anomer-cobalt acetate adducts followed the
trend of α-MeGlc > α-MeGal > α-MeMan > β-MeGal > β-MeGlc > β-MeMan. The
CCS of the sodium adducts, based on their drift times as listed in Table 1,
followed the trend of α-MeGlc > α-MeGal > β-MeGlc > β-MeGal > α-MeMan > β-
MeMan. The measured CCS must reflect differences in the overall structures of
the methyl glycosides as coordinated ion complexes; detailed calculations of
these structures are currently under investigation.
Separation factors between all possible combinations of the
glycopyranosides were generated from measured drift times of the sodium
adducts of anomers of all methyl glycosides studied (Table 1). Based on the
experimentally determined criterion under the experimental conditions to define
“separation” (0.2 ms drift time difference), underlined glycoside combinations in
Table 1 indicate pairs of glycopyranosides that could not be resolved with a
resolution greater than 0.5, or two peaks were not discernable but appeared as
one broad coalesced peak. Excluding the same pyranoside combinations it was
concluded that out of 15 different pairs of the pyranosides (Table 1), 13 can be
separated as sodium adducts. Similarly 12 of the 15 pairs can be separated as
cobalt acetate adducts. Notably the pairs not separated as sodium adducts were
separated as their [M +Co(CH3COO)]+ counterparts, thus all 15 pairs can be
separated as either of the two adducts. Resolution was limited in part to the use
of a 0.2 ms pulse width for these particular experiments. Higher resolution could
be achieved by operation at more narrow IMS pulse widths (0.1 ms), at the
practical expense of loss of sensitivity.
Given the results using different metal ions above, and owing to the
tremendous number of potential isomeric variants in the analysis of complex
carbohydrates that might require greater experimental flexibility to obtain
physical resolution, experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of
additional cations and cation complexes and different drift gases on the
separation of carbohydrate isomers, detailed in the following sections.
3.3 Effects of additional cations on separation of one selected anomeric pair
of glycosides, α α α α- and β β β β -methylgalactopyranosides
Figure 4 illustrates the gas phase separation of α-MeGal and β-MeGal
when complexed with three different cations or cation complexes, [M +
Co(CH3COO)]+, [M + Ag]+, or [M + Pb(CH3COO)]+. As indicated, the nature of
the cation has marked affects on separation of anomeric pairs, varying from
separation factors of 1.01 to 1.07 (Table 2). Some of these differences may result
from fundamental differences in coordination of counterion species. Singly-
charged metals, for example, (Na+, Ag+) invariably adducted with methyl
glycosides as naked ions but doubly-charged ions yielded singly charged
adducts that also included an acetate or acetylacetonate anion. While we have
not explored a wide variety of counterions as yet, it was evident that changing
the acid counterion can also endow the ion complexes with unique properties
that alter their separation. This was observed, for instance, in the comparison of
[M+Pb(CH3COO)]+ and [M+Pb(C2H5O2)]+ adducts having separation factors of
1.07 and 1.02, respectively (Table 2).
3.4 Different drift gases markedly affect the separation of isomeric methyl
While nitrogen is one of the most common drift gases used in IMS, the
variation of drift times with polarizability of the drift gas has been reported for a
number of analytes using different gases or mixtures including air, nitrogen,
helium, argon, CO2 and SF6.[35-38] General conclusions drawn from these
reports are that the polarizability of the drift gas can dramatically affect not only
overall drift times but also the order of arrival times for various molecules.
As mentioned earlier α-MeMan and β-MeMan as sodium adducts were not
resolved using N2 gas and a pulse width of 0.2 ms (Table 1). Studies were
therefore performed with drift gases of varying polarizability which included N2,
CO2, Ar, and He. In these experiments the flow rate of the drift gases was
maintained identically for all gases by adjusting the flow rate meter to the
flowrate of different gases going through it. Two-dimensional IMS-MS spectra of
α-MeMan and β-MeMan as sodium adducts at m/z 217 are shown in Fig. 5, at an
IMS pulse width of 0.2ms using CO2 (Panel A) and N2 (Panel B) as drift gases.
Baseline separation was achieved when CO2 was used. As shown in Table 3, the
separation of two isomers using the different drift gases He, Ar, N2 or CO2 was
often dramatically affected in unpredictable ways. For example, the separation
factors of the methyl-galactopyranosides ranged from 1.01 (Ar) to 1.05 (He).
From the purely practical analytical perspective, however, the use of different
drift gases imparts another level of flexibility in separation of carbohydrate
isomers. Figure 6 shows the linear relationship between the measured collision
cross sections of adducts and polarizability of drift gases for α- and β- MeMan,
MeGal, and MeGlc. Extrapolation of this linear relationship provides the zero
polarizability collision cross section that can be used in an ab initio calculations
for modeling purposes.
3.5 Separation of isomers of reducing sugars
In Fig. 7 the IMS profile is shown of reducing glucose as a sodium adduct
using either N2 or CO2 as drift gas. It is clearly evident from all three traces that
glucose has at least three observable isomeric forms that resolve in the gas phase
as sodium adducts. Increased resolution with lowered pulse width is also clearly
evident in the Figure. Other reducing sugars also typically separated into more
than one gas-phase form (Table 4) except ribose, which was virtually entirely one
IMS peak. Both the nature of the drift gas and the ion mobility pulse width time
affected the resolution of isomers (Fig. 7). One caveat with reducing sugars as
mentioned previously is that they can exist in multiple anomeric and cyclic forms
in solution. During the process of electrospray ionization these isomeric forms
might produce adduct ions in an unpredictable fashion, or potentially might
adduct at more than one site with a given ion. In addition, considering the
complexity of the electrospray process, the sugars themselves might interconvert
to yield ratios of the different configurations that are not observed, for instance,
by NMR in solution. Furthermore, the observation of one peak as in the case of
ribose could be due to coincidental co-migration of two or more
The data illustrate the capability of APIMS to separate different forms of
reducing monosaccharides having different anomeric configurations and
possibly different ring forms. Moreover, the IMS profiles observed for
individual sugars are unique at a given m/z and can rapidly provide additional
information orthogonal to MS for identification of a monosaccharide, because
monosaccharide dissociation patterns are often very similar. However,
interpretation of the actual molecular complexes involved will require much
more detailed studies involving calculations and potentially studies with other
model sugar glycosides that could give rise to single gas-phase species through
dissociation. It is worth noting that for all the methyl glycosides examined as
adducts with several different metal ions (Tables 1, 2, and 3), only single peaks
were observed whereas for reducing sugars, multiple peaks were the typical
scenario. This argues that in most cases, for reducing monosaccharides, the
different forms are probably anomeric/cyclic variants rather than adducts at
multiple locations for one given cyclic form/anomer, although the latter certainly
cannot be ruled out.
3.5.2 Separation of disaccharides and effects of the reducing sugar.
We previously demonstrated that small disaccharide-alditols derived
from glycoproteins and some trisaccharides (two of them non-reducing) could be
separated by APIMS-MS. The compounds were in part selected because they
resulted in single peaks, and borohydride reduction of reducing sugars to
alditols prevented the effects of alternative anomers/cyclization on ion mobility
that thereby simplifies the analyses. In Figure 8 the ion mobility spectra of
sucrose (a non-reducing disaccharide) and maltose (α-D-Glcp-(1-4)-D-Glc, a
reducing disaccharide) are shown. Sucrose yielded a single peak, whereas
maltose yielded five IMS peaks. This indicates that the reducing sugar in
maltose is probably present in different configurations, possibly even the open-
chain form, and potentially that different locations for metal ion adduction are
possible. Of interest was that isomaltose (α-D-Glcp-(1-6)-D-Glc) which is also a
reducing disaccharide, yielded just one peak (Table 4). These experiments, along
with those previously reported  indicate that a reducing sugar usually
complicates analyses of disaccharides, that if a reducing structure yields just one
peak it is either due to one dominant adduct or coincidental co-migration of
more than one, and that it is in most cases desirable to reduce a larger
oligosaccharide with sodium borohydride to the alditol at the reducing end to
Separation of metal adducts of anomeric methyl glycoside isomers
(MeMan, MeGal, and MeGlc) and isomeric forms of reducing sugars were
achieved using ESI-APIMS-TOFMS. Methyl glycosides yielded single IMS
peaks, but more than one peak was typically observed for free reducing
monosaccharides suggesting that in the gas phase different anomers and ring
forms of reducing monosaccharides might be differentiated by APIMS. Ion
mobility profiles of reducing monosaccharides examined at given m/z values
were unique and may enable them to be identified in the future as product ions
derived from larger oligosaccharides when used in combination with gas-phase
Both the nature of the metal cation complex used for adduction and the
drift gas employed in the IMS influenced separation between carbohydrate
isomers in independent and often unpredictable ways. However, regardless of
the nature of the drift gas or metal ion complex, the α-methylglycosides
invariably had longer drift times (i.e.-larger collisional cross-sections) than the β-
anomers. Between sodium and cobalt acetate adducts, all 15 combinatorial pairs
of these methyl hexopyranosides could be separated which demonstrates the
potential of ESI-APIMS-TOFMS as applied to structural elucidation of
carbohydrates. Furthermore, other metal ions and metal ion complexes also
markedly affected the resolution of isomers and when used orthogonally to
different drift gases, a number of physically alterable properties can be easily
varied to attempt to elicit separations of sugar isomers. While these studies have
been largely carried out with simple glycosides and reducing sugars, the
fundamental advantage of ambient pressure IMS to separate ions based on their
size when conjugated with MS provides a high resolution analytical tool that can
be applied to separation of isomeric ions either before or after dissociation
events. This may have great value in rapidly evaluating suspected isomeric
mixtures of oligosaccharides through arrays of multiple experimental conditions.
It also seems reasonable to surmise that many other metal-centered ion
complexes, different counterions of salts, and drift gases of different selectivity
along with optimization of instrumental parameters, might be exploited to
further enhance the flexibility of IMS as applied to carbohydrate structure
Authors would like to acknowledge Agnes Tempez, Thomas F. Egan and
Albert J. Schultz from Ionwerks Incorporated (Houston, TX) for their
contribution in the construction of high resolution APIMS-TOFMS. This work
was supported in part by a grant from National Institute of Health-National
Center for Research Resources (R21 DK 070274). BB also acknowledges NSF
grant CHE-0137986 for partial support.
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Captions for Figures
Figure 1 Two dimensional IMS-MS spectra of a mixture of methyl-α-and β-D-
galactopyranosides showing the separation (N2 drift gas) of the sodium adducts at
m/z 217 (panel A) and the cobalt acetate adducts at m/z 312 (panel B). Drift times of
methyl-α and β-D-galactopyranosides run individually under these conditions are
presented in Table 1.
Figure 2 Two-dimensional IMS-MS plot of a mixture of methyl-α- and β-D-
glucopyranosides (N2 drift gas). Sodium adducts of the anomers at m/z 217 were
partially separated in the mobility dimension and baseline separated as cobalt
acetate adducts at m/z 312. Drift times of sodium and cobalt acetate adducts of
methyl-α- and β-D-glucopyranosides run individually are presented in Table 1.
Figure 3 Two-dimensional IMS-MS plots illustrating the separation of epimers
as sodium adducts at m/z 217 (N2 drift gas). Panel A: αMeGlc and α-MeMan; Panel B:
β-MeGlc and β-MeGal. Measurements were performed at an electric field of 514
V/cm and 699 mm Hg pressure and drift times of the monosaccharides are listed in
Figure 4 IMS spectra of α- and β- MeGal illustrating the effect of various cations
on separation factor. Ion identity and mobility values are listed in Table 2.
Figure 5 2D IMS-MS spectra illustrating the baseline separation of α- and β-
anomers of methyl-mannopyranoside as sodium adducts at m/z 217 when carbon
dioxide was used as the drift gas (panel A). The same anomers were barely resolved
as sodium adducts with nitrogen as the drift gas (panel B). The above measurements
were performed at 514 V/cm and 699 mm Hg pressure.
Figure 6 Variation in the ion collision cross section with the polarizability of
drift gases for the α- and β β β β- anomers of MeMan, MeGal, and MeGlc. A linear
relationship between drift gas polarizability and collision cross section was observed
for all the anomers. Collision cross sections for other pyranosides in different drift
gases are listed in Table 3.
Figure 7 IMS-MS spectra of glucose as a sodium adduct at m/z 203. A) Glucose
with nitrogen as drift gas and 0.2 ms IMS pulse width, B) glucose with nitrogen as
drift gas and 0.1 ms IMS pulse width, C) glucose with carbon dioxide as drift gas and
0.1 ms IMS pulse. Separation between isomeric forms of glucose increased with
decreased pulse width and increased drift gas polarizability.
Figure 8 IMS separation of the disaccharides sucrose (non-reducing) and maltose
(reducing) as sodium adducts (m/z 365). Unlike sucrose multiple IMS peaks were
observed for maltose, the drift times of which are listed in Table 4.
Table 1. Separation factors of monosaccharide methyl glycosides as metal ion complexes using
ion mobility/mass spectrometrya
Name of glycoside
and drift time (td)b
α-MeGal (16.43) 1.00 1.03
β-MeGal (15.96) 1.00
Name of glycoside
α-MeGal β-MeGal α-MeGlc β-MeGlc α-MeMan β-MeMan
and drift time (td)b
Cobalt acetate adducts
α-MeGal (18.36) 1.00 1.03
15.70 16.45 15.55
18.73 17.75 17.95 17.64
a Separation factors are defined as the ratio of the slow drift compound/fast drift compound for any given pair of
methyl glycosides, abbreviated as described in the text.
b Drift times (ms) were recorded using N2 gas at 702 mm Hg pressure, 425 V/cm, and were reproducible to ± 0.04 ms.
c Underlined separation factors were of combined pairs where the difference in drift times of individual
glycopyranosides was less than 0.2 ms, wherefore peaks seen in separations of mixtures will probably appear as broad unresolved peaks.
Separation factors of 1.02 or greater will resolve two compounds which will be observed as two discernable peaks.
Table 2. Effect of the nature of the metal ion on separation of anomeric pairs of methyl galactosides as
metal ion complexes using ion mobility/mass spectrometrya
Metal ionb Complex m/ze Drift time (ms) Separation Collision cross
Factorc section (Å2)g
α-MeGal β-MeGal α-MeGal β-MeGal
[Na + MeGal]+ 217 12.06
[Ag + MeGal]+ 301f 12.95
[Co(CH3COO) + MeGal]+ 312 13.51
[Co(C5H7O2) + MeGal]+ 353d 14.31
[Cu(CH3COO) + MeGal]+ 316f 13.40
Ca+2 [Ca(CH3COO)+ + MeGal]+ 293f 14.62
[Hg(CH3COO) + MeGal]+ 455f 13.70
[Pb(CH3COO) + MeGal]+ 401f 13.28
[Pb(C5H7O2)d + MeGal]+ 501f 14.43
1.04 124 118
1.05 131 124
1.02 136 134
1.02 144 141
1.03 135 132
1.01 148 146
1.01 136 134
1.07 133 124
1.02 143 141
a Drift times were recorded using N2 gas at 700 mm Hg pressure, 562 V/cm, and were reproducible to ± 0.04 ms.
b Salts were present with acetate counterions unless otherwise noted.
c Separation factors are defined as the ratio of the slow drift compound/fast drift compound for anomeric pairs of
d Salt contained the acetylacetonate counterion.
e. m/z of most abundant ion
f. Multiple peaks corresponding to isotopic distribution observed in m/z domain
g Collision cross section calculated using equation 3
Table 3. The effect of different drift gases on the separation of sodiated monosaccharide methyl glycosides by ion mobility
Methyl glycoside Drift gas
___________Heb_________ _________ N2c__________ _____________Arb________ ___________CO2b________
Drift time CCSd Separation Drift time CCS Separation Drift time CCS Separation Drift time CCS Separation
(ms) (Å2)e factor (ms) (Å2) factor (ms)
−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−− −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−
α-MeGal 9.71 232 12.95 124
β-MeGal 9.22 220 12.52 118
α-MeGlc 9.65 230 13.39 127
β-MeGlc 9.16 219 13.09 124
α-MeMan 9.62 230 12.79 122
β-MeMan 9.43 225 12.61 120
(Å2) factor (ms) (Å2) factor
17.63 115 21.30 166
17.45 114 20.51 160
18.29 119 21.85 171
18.01 117 21.18 166
18.11 118 20.96 164
17.92 117 20.42 160
a All ions were sodium adducts where the separation factor represents the ratio of the slow drift anomer/fast drift anomer for
respective pairs of methyl glycopyranosides. The drift gas flow rate was constant at ~1300 mL/min near 700 mm Hg for all gases.
b Experiments carried out at 514 V/cm.
c Experiments carried out at 401 V/cm.
d CCS is the abbreviation for collision cross section
e Collision cross sections were calculated using equation 3
Table 4. Drift times and reduced mobilities determined for some sodiated adducts of reducing
monosaccharides and some disaccharides employing ion mobility/mass spectrometry a
Compound m/z Drift times and reduced mobilities (bracketed) for ion mobility peaksb
Glucosec 203 11.80 (1.52); 12.14 (1.48); 12.31 (1.46)
Fructosec 203 12.13 (1.48); 12.23 (1.47)
Ribosec 173 11.41 (1.58)
Xylosec 173 11.13 (1.62); 11.36 (1.58)
Sucrosed 365 19.02 (1.27)
Maltosed 365 19.56 (1.23); 19.24 (1.25); 20.48 (1.18); 21.09 (1.14), and 21.58 (1.12)
Isomaltosed 365 19.65 (1.23)
a N2 was used as the drift gas at ~1300 mL/min.
b Reduced mobility in cm2V-1s-1.
c Denotes measurements performed at 514 V/cm and 699 mm Hg pressure.
d Denotes measurements performed at 412 V/cm and 700 mm Hg pressure.
Figure 1: Two dimensional IMS-MS spectra of a mixture of methyl-α-and β-D-
galactopyranosides showing the separation (N2 drift gas) of the sodium
adducts at m/z 217 (panel A) and the cobalt acetate adducts at m/z 312 (panel
B). Drift times of methyl-α and β-D-galactopyranosides run individually
under these conditions are presented in Table 1.
Figure 2: Two-dimensional IMS-MS plot of a mixture of methyl-α- and β-D-
glucopyranosides (N2 drift gas). Sodium adducts of the anomers at m/z 217
were partially separated in the mobility dimension and baseline separated as
cobalt acetate adducts at m/z 312. Drift times of sodium and cobalt acetate
adducts of methyl-α- and β-D-glucopyranosides run individually are
presented in Table 1.
Figure 3: Two-dimensional IMS-MS plots illustrating the separation of
epimers as sodium adducts at m/z 217 (N2 drift gas). Panel A: αMeGlc and α-
MeMan; Panel B: β-MeGlc and β-MeGal. Measurements were performed at an
electric field of 514 V/cm and 699 mm Hg pressure and drift times of the
monosaccharides are listed in Table 2.
Figure 4: IMS spectra of α- and β- MeGal illustrating the effect of various
cations on separation factor. Ion identity and mobility values are listed in
Separation factor = 1.02
(Ag) + adduct;
Separation factor = 1.05
Separation factor = 1.07
Drift Time (µs)
Figure 5: 2D IMS-MS spectra illustrating the baseline separation of α- and β-
anomers of methyl-mannopyranoside as sodium adducts at m/z 217 when
carbon dioxide was used as the drift gas (panel A). The same anomers were
barely resolved as sodium adducts with nitrogen as the drift gas (panel B).
The above measurements were performed at 514 V/cm and 699 mm Hg
Drift gas N2 CO2 Ar
Polarizability 1.7 2.9 1.6
As tabulated in the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
R2 = 1
0 0.51 1.522.53 3.5
Polarizability of Drift Gas ( 10-24cm3 )
Collision Cross Section ( Å Å Å Å2 )
Figure 6: Variation in the ion collision cross section with the polarizability of
drift gases for the α- and β β β β- anomers of MeMan, MeGal, and MeGlc. A linear
relationship between drift gas polarizability and collision cross section was
observed for all the anomers. Collision cross sections for other pyranosides in
different drift gases are listed in Table 3.
Figure 7: IMS-MS spectra of glucose as a sodium adduct at m/z 203. A) Glucose
with nitrogen as drift gas and 0.2 ms IMS pulse width, B) glucose with
nitrogen as drift gas and 0.1 ms IMS pulse width, C) glucose with carbon
dioxide as drift gas and 0.1 ms IMS pulse. Separation between isomeric forms
of glucose increased with decreased pulse width and increased drift gas
Drift Time (µ µ µ µs)
A) 0.2 ms ion gate
pulse width in N2
B) 0.1 ms ion gate pulse
width in N2
C) 0.1 ms ion gate pulse
width in CO2
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Figure 8: IMS separation of the disaccharides sucrose (non-reducing) and
maltose (reducing) as sodium adducts (m/z 365). Unlike sucrose multiple IMS
peaks were observed for maltose, the drift times of which are listed in Table 4.
Na+ adducts of maltose
Na+ adduct of sucrose