Sensitivity enhancement in capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry of anionic metabolites using a triethylamine-containing background electrolyte and sheath liquid

Miranda G M Kok, Gerhardus J de Jong, Govert W Somsen
Electrophoresis 2011, 32 (21): 3016-24
Analyte responses in CE-ESI-MS using negative ionization are frequently relatively low, thereby limiting sensitivity in metabolomics applications. In order to enhance the ionization efficiency of anionic metabolites, BGEs and sheath liquids (SLs) of various compositions were evaluated. Pressure-induced infusion and CE-MS experiments showed that addition of triethylamine (TEA) to the BGE and SL enhanced analyte intensities. A BGE consisting of 25 mM TEA (pH 11.7) and an SL of water-methanol (1:1, v/v) containing 5 mM TEA was selected, providing separation and detection of ten representative test metabolites with good reproducibility (migration time RSDs<1%) and linearity (R(2) >0.99). This BGE yielded lower limits of detection (0.7-9.1 μM) for most test compounds when compared with common CE-MS methods using a BGE and SL containing ammonium acetate (NH(4) Ac) (25 and 5 mM, respectively). CE-MS of human urine revealed an average amount of 231 molecular features in negative ionization mode when TEA was used in the BGE and SL, whereas 115 and 102 molecular features were found with an NH(4) Ac-containing BGE and SL, employing a bare fused-silica (BFS) and Polybrene-dextran sulfate-Polybrene (PB-DS-PB)-coated capillary, respectively. With the CE-MS method using TEA, about 170 molecular features were observed that were not detected with the NH(4) Ac-based CE-MS methods. For more than 82% of the molecular features that were detected with the TEA as well as the NH(4) Ac-containg BGEs (i.e. common features), the peak intensities were higher using TEA with gain factors up to 7. Overall, the results demonstrate that BGEs and SLs containing TEA are quite favorable for the analysis of anionic metabolites in CE-MS.

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