Characterization of Wax Esters by Electrospray Ionization Tandem Mass Spectrometry: Double Bond Effect and Unusual Product Ions

Academic Article


  • A series of different types of wax esters (represented by RCOOR′) were systematically studied by using electrospray ionization (ESI) collision-induced dissociation tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) along with pseudo MS3 (in-source dissociation combined with MS/MS) on a quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) mass spectrometer. The tandem mass spectra patterns resulting from dissociation of ammonium/proton adducts of these wax esters were influenced by the wax ester type and the collision energy applied. The product ions [RCOOH2]+, [RCO]+ and [RCO−H2O]+ that have been reported previously were detected; however, different primary product ions were demonstrated for the three wax ester types including: (1) [RCOOH2]+ for saturated wax esters, (2) [RCOOH2]+, [RCO]+ and [RCO−H2O]+ for unsaturated wax esters containing only one double bond in the fatty acid moiety or with one additional double bond in the fatty alcohol moiety, and (3) [RCOOH2]+ and [RCO]+ for unsaturated wax esters containing a double bond in the fatty alcohol moiety alone. Other fragments included [R′]+ and several series of product ions for all types of wax esters. Interestingly, unusual product ions were detected, such as neutral molecule (including water, methanol and ammonia) adducts of [RCOOH2]+ ions for all types of wax esters and [R′−2H]+ ions for unsaturated fatty acyl-containing wax esters. The patterns of tandem mass spectra for different types of wax esters will inform future identification and quantification approaches of wax esters in biological samples as supported by a preliminary study of quantification of isomeric wax esters in human meibomian gland secretions.
  • Published In

  • Lipids  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Double bond, Electrospray ionization, Fragmentation, Mass spectrometry, Neutral molecule adducts, Wax esters
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Chen J; Green KB; Nichols KK