Electrospray ionization mass spectroscopic analysis of human erythrocyte plasma membrane phospholipids

Xianlin Han, Richard W. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

390 Scopus citations


Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) was utilized for the structural determination and quantitative analysis of individual phospholipid molecular species from subpicomole amounts of human erythrocyte plasma membrane phospholipids. The sensitivity of ESI-MS was 2-3 orders of magnitude greater than that achievable with fast-atom bombardment mass spectrometry (FAB-MS). Phospholipid structure determination and quantitative analysis with ESI-MS can be performed directly from chloroform extracts of biologic samples, obviating the need for prior chromatographic separation of phospholipid classes which has been necessary in FAB-MS phospholipid analyses. Furthermore, ESI-MS is uncomplicated by differential fragmentation of molecular ions and idiosyncratic surface desorption, allowing the quantitation of phospholipids with coefficients of determination (r2) > 0.99 and accuracies > 95%. More than 50 human erythrocyte plasma membrane phospholipid constituents were identified by direct ESI-MS analysis of chloroform extracts of plasma membranes derived from the equivalent of <1 μl of whole blood. The major ethanolamine glycerophospholipid subclass in erythrocyte plasma membranes was plasmenylethanolamine that was highly enriched in polyunsaturated fatty acids at the sn-2 position. Collectively, these results demonstrate that ESI-MS of phospholipids is an enabling strategy for the direct structural determination and quantitative analysis of subpicomole amounts of phospholipids from biologic samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10635-10639
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
StatePublished - Oct 25 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • mass spectrometry
  • plasmalogen
  • red blood cell
  • sphingomyelin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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