Evaluating the structural complexity of isomeric bile acids with ion mobility spectrometry

Xueyun Zheng, Francesca B. Smith, Noor A. Aly, Jingwei Cai, Richard D. Smith, Andrew D. Patterson, Erin S. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Bile acids (BAs) play an integral role in digestion through the absorption of nutrients, emulsification of fats and fat-soluble vitamins, and maintenance of cholesterol levels. Metabolic disruption, diabetes, colorectal cancer, and numerous other diseases have been linked with BA disruption, making improved BA analyses essential. To date, most BA measurements are performed using liquid chromatography separations in conjunction with mass spectrometry measurements (LC-MS). However, 10–40 min LC gradients are often used for BA analyses and these may not even be sufficient for distinguishing all the important isomers present in the human body. Ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) is a promising tool for BA evaluations due to its ability to quickly separate isomeric molecules with subtle structural differences. In this study, we utilized drift tube IMS (DTIMS) coupled with MS to characterize 56 different unlabeled BA standards and 16 deuterated versions. In the DTIMS-MS analyses of 12 isomer groups, BAs with smaller m/z values were easily separated in either their deprotonated or sodiated forms (or both). However, as the BAs grew in m/z value, they became more difficult to separate with two isomer groups being inseparable. Metal ions such as copper and zinc were then added to the overlapping BAs, and due to different binding sites, the resulting complexes were separable. Thus, the rapid structural measurements possible with DTIMS-MS show great potential for BAs measurements with and without prior LC separations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4673-4682
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - Jul 19 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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