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Adv Biol Regul. 2014 Jan;54:131-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jbior.2013.09.001. Epub 2013 Sep 17.

A new approach to measuring phosphoinositides in cells by mass spectrometry.

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Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK.
Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK.
Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, UK. Electronic address:


The phosphoinositide family of phospholipids, defined here as PtdIns, PtdIns3P, PtdIns4P, PtdIns5P, PtdIns(3,4)P2, PtdIns(3,5)P2, PtdIns(4,5)P2 and PtdIns(3,4,5)P3, play pivotal roles in organising the location and activity of many different proteins acting on biological membranes, including those involved in vesicle and protein trafficking through the endolysosomal system and receptor signal transduction at the plasma membrane. Accurate measurement of the cellular levels of these lipids, particularly the more highly phosphorylated species, is hampered by their high polarity and low cellular concentrations. Recently, much progress has been made in using mass spectrometry to measure many different lipid classes in parallel, an approach generally referred to as 'lipidomics'. Unfortunately, the acidic nature of highly phosphorylated phosphoinositides makes them difficult to measure using these methods, because they yield low levels of useful ions; this is particularly the case with PtdIns(3,4,5)P3. We have solved some of these problems by methylating the phosphate groups of these lipids with TMS-diazomethane and describe a simple, integrated approach to measuring PtdIns, PtdInsP, PtdInsP2 and PtdInsP3 classes of lipids, in parallel with other phospholipid species, in cell and tissue extracts. This methodology is sensitive, accurate and robust, and also yields fatty-acyl compositions, suggesting it can be used to further our understanding of both the normal and pathophysiological roles of these important lipids.

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