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Anal Chem. 2000 Feb 15;72(4):652-7.

Atmospheric pressure matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0446, USA.


A novel ionization source for biological mass spectrometry is described that combines atmospheric pressure (AP) ionization and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI). The transfer of the ions from the atmospheric pressure ionization region to the high vacuum is pneumatically assisted (PA) by a stream of nitrogen, hence the acronym PA-AP MALDI. PA-AP MALDI is readily interchangeable with electrospray ionization on an orthogonal acceleration time-of-flight (oaTOF) mass spectrometer. Sample preparation is identical to that for conventional vacuum MALDI and uses the same matrix compounds, such as alpha-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid. The performance of this ion source on the oaTOF mass spectrometer is compared with that of conventional vacuum MALDI-TOF for the analysis of peptides. PA-AP MALDI can detect low femtomole amounts of peptides in mixtures with good signal-to-noise ratio and with less discrimination for the detection of individual peptides in a protein digest. Peptide ions produced by this method generally exhibit no metastable fragmentation, whereas an oligosaccharide ionized by PA-AP MALDI shows several structurally diagnostic fragment ions. Total sample consumption is higher for PA-AP MALDI than for vacuum MALDI, as the transfer of ions into the vacuum system is relatively inefficient. This ionization method is able to produce protonated molecular ions for small proteins such as insulin, but these tend to form clusters with the matrix material. Limitations of the oaTOF mass spectrometer for singly charged high-mass ions make it difficult to evaluate the ionization of larger proteins.

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