Ascorbic acid for homogenous redox buffering in electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry

  • Plattner S
  • Erb R
  • Chervet J
 et al. 
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Electrospray ionization (ESI) involves the dispersion of a liquid containing analytes of interest into a fine aerosol by applying a high potential difference to the sample solution with respect to a counter electrode. Thus, from the electrochemical point of view, the ESI source represents a two-electrode controlled-current electrochemical flow cell. The electroactive compounds part of the solvent sprayed may be altered by occurring electrolysis (oxidation in positive ion mode and reduction in negative ion mode). These reactions can be troublesome in the context of unknown identification and quantification. In the search for a simple, inexpensive, and efficient way to suppress electrochemical oxidation in positive ESI, the usability of ascorbic acid, hydroquinone, and glutathione for homogenous redox buffering was tested. Performance of the antioxidants was assessed by analyzing pharmaceutical compounds covering a broad range of functional groups prone to oxidation. Different emitter setups were applied for continuous infusion, flow injection, and liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry experiments. Best performance was obtained with ascorbic acid. In comparison to hydroquinone and glutathione, ascorbic acid offered superior antioxidant activity, a relatively inert oxidation product, and hardly any negative effect on the ionization efficiency of analytes. Furthermore, ascorbic acid suppressed the formation of sodiated forms and was able to induce charge state reduction. Only in the very special case of analyzing a compound isobaric to ascorbic acid, interference with the low-abundant [ascorbic acid+H]+ signal may become a point of attention. Figure Ascorbic acid efficiently suppresses analyte oxidation and formation of sodiated forms in positive electrospray ionization

Author-supplied keywords

  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrospray ionization
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Redox buffering

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  • Sabine Plattner

  • Robert Erb

  • Jean Pierre Chervet

  • Herbert Oberacher

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