Automated molecular weight assignment of electrospray ionization mass spectra.

Research paper by J D JD Williams, B E BE Weiner, J R JR Ormand, J J Brunner, A D AD Thornquest, D J DJ Burinsky

Indexed on: 18 Dec '01Published on: 18 Dec '01Published in: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry


Process improvements in the synthesis of therapeutic agents and their intermediates are often facilitated by identification of reaction by-products. Analysis by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) with electrospray ionization is a powerful approach for obtaining molecular weight information for these compounds. Such analyses are well suited for 'open-access' mass spectrometry using generic chromatographic conditions, provided spectral interpretation for unknown compounds is facile. We have developed a software application (MassAssign) that facilitates automated data processing and molecular weight assignment for chromatographic peaks detected by any standard ultraviolet-visible wavelength detector. The program assigns [M + H](+) ions (and thus molecular weight) in the mass spectra using predetermined criteria. This evaluation process differentiates [M + H](+) ions from other signals in a complex mass spectrum such as those resulting from chromatographic coelution or the presence of multiple species (i.e., fragment ions, singly charged ions, doubly charged ions, adduct ions, proton-bound dimers, etc.). Once the program has evaluated all ions in a mass spectrum that exceed a preset abundance threshold, MassAssign reports either a numeric value-indicating the chromatographic peak consists of a single component having the displayed molecular weight, 'MC'-indicating the peak consisted of multiple components, or 'ND'-that a molecular weight could not be determined unequivocally. The performance of the program was evaluated by comparing mass assignments made by MassAssign against manual interpretation for 55 samples analyzed by positive electrospray ionization using a generic HPLC method. Correct molecular weight assignments were obtained in 90% of the cases.