The identification of phosphocholine and phosphoethanolamine lipids by MALDI TOF/TOF, including characterisation of the headgroup and delineation of the acyl chain at each position of the glycerol backbone, has been explored using lipids representative of each type. The relative intensities of fragments involving the neutral loss of one or other of the acyl chains from ion adducts of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (POPE), 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and 1-oleoyl-2- palmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (OPPC) were compared. For POPC and POPE, a statistical preference for the loss of the chain from the sn-1 position was observed in the presence of lithium. For OPPC this selectivity was reversed for one of the fragments. In the absence of lithium, fragmentation was favoured at the sn-2 position for all lipids. In all cases, spectra obtained in the presence of lithium yielded more intense product ion peaks. Although Collision Induced Dissociation (CID) could be used for complete lipid characterisation, LIFT™ was found to be a better method due to the presence of a greater number of distinguishing product ion peaks and a better shot-to-shot reproducibility of peak intensities.
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