More than 50% of all known proteins are glycosylated, which is critical for many biological processes such as protein folding and signal transduction. Glycosylation has proven to be associated with different mammalian diseases such as breast and liver cancers. Therefore, characterization of glycans is highly important to facilitate a better understanding of the development and progression of many human diseases. Although matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) offers several advantages such as ease of operation and short analysis times, however, due to the complexity of glycan structures and their low ionization efficiency, there are still challenges that need to be addressed to achieve sensitive glycan analysis. Here, magnetic carbon nanocomposites (CNPs@Fe3O4 NCs) were used as a new MALDI matrix or co-matrix for the analysis of glycans derived from different model glycoproteins and human blood serum samples. The addition of CNPs@Fe3O4 NCs to the matrix significantly enhanced glycan signal intensity by several orders of magnitude, and effectively controlled/reduced/eliminated in-source decay (ISD) fragmentation. The latter was attained by modulating CNPs@Fe3O4 NCs concentrations and allowed the simultaneous study of intact and fragmented glycans, and pseudo-MS3 analysis. Moreover, CNPs@Fe3O4 NCs was also effectively employed to desalt samples directly on MALDI plate, thus enabling direct MALDI-MS analysis of unpurified permethylated glycans derived from both model glycoproteins and biological samples. On-plate desalting enhanced sensitivity by reducing sample loss. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].
- Human blood serum
- In-source decay fragmentation
- Magnetic carbon nanoparticles