Adduct ion-targeted qualitative and quantitative analysis of polyoxypregnanes by ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography coupled with triple quadrupole mass spectrometry

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Polyoxypregnane and its glycosides (POPs) are frequently present in plants of Asclepiadaceae family, and have a variety of biological activities. There is a great need to comprehensively profile these phytochemicals and to quantify them for monitoring their contents in the herbs and the biological samples. However, POPs undergo extensive adduct ion formation in ESI-MS, which has posed a challenge for qualitative and quantitative analysis of POPs. In the present study, we took the advantage of such extensive adduct ion formation to investigate the suitability of adduct ion-targeted analysis of POPs. For the qualitative analysis, we firstly demonstrated that the sodium and ammonium adduct ion-targeted product ion scans (PIS) provided adequate MS/MS fragmentations for structural characterization of POPs. Aided with precursor ion (PI) scans, which showed high selectivity and sensitivity and improved peak assignment confidence in conjunction with full scan (FS), the informative adduct ion-targeted PIS enabled rapid POPs profiling. For the quantification, we used formic acid rather than ammonium acetate as an additive in the mobile phase to avoid simultaneous formation of sodium and ammonium adduct ions, and greatly improved reproducibility of MS response of POPs. By monitoring the solely formed sodium adduct ions [M+Na]+, a method for simultaneous quantification of 25 POPs in the dynamic multiple reaction monitoring mode was then developed and validated. Finally, the aforementioned methods were applied to qualitative and quantitative analysis of POPs in the extract of a traditional Chinses medicinal herb, Marsdenia tenacissima (Roxb.) Wight et Arn., and in the plasma obtained from the rats treated with this herb. The results demonstrated that adduct ion formation could be optimized for the qualitative and quantitative analysis of POPs, and our developed PI/FS-PIS scanning and sole [M+Na]+ ion monitoring significantly improved the analysis of POPs in both herbal and biological samples. This study also provides implications for the analysis of other compounds which undergo extensive adduct ion formation in ESI–MS.

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