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This paper reports the use of a quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) mass spectrometer fitted with a matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) ion source for the analysis of neutral and acidic glycosphingolipids. All compounds gave strong [M + Na]+ ions with 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid as the matrix, with no loss of sensitivity with increasing mass as was observed from the corresponding ions produced by electrospray. Neutral glycosphingolipids showed negligible in-source fragmentation but sialylated compounds fragmented by loss of sialic acid. However, these losses were not accompanied by unfocused post-source-decay ions as observed with MALDI-reflectron-TOF instruments. The MS/MS spectra were almost identical to those obtained by electrospray. Fragmentation of all compounds was mainly by glycosidic cleavage to give ions, both with and without the ceramide moiety, which defined the carbohydrate chain sequence. Weak ions which defined the sphingosine chain length and abundant ions, produced by loss of the acyl chain, were present when this chain contained a 2-hydroxy group. The technique was applied to the identification of ceramide-trihexosides present in tissues from mice genetically modified to model one of the glycolipid storage diseases (Fabry disease).

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Soc Mass Spectrom

Publication Date





1220 - 1225


Animals, Brain Chemistry, Carbohydrate Sequence, Cattle, Gaucher Disease, Glycosphingolipids, Humans, Kidney, Liver, Mice, Molecular Sequence Data, Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization, Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization, Spleen