Characterization of ginseng saponins using electrospray mass spectrometry and collision-induced dissociation experiments of metal-attachment ions
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Electrospray mass spectrometry (ESMS) and collision-induced dissociation (CID) methodologies have been developed for the structural characterization of ginseng saponins (ginsenosides). Ginsenosides are terpene glycosides containing a triterpene core to which one to four sugars may be attached. They are neutral molecules which readily form molecular metal-attachment ions in positive ion ESMS experiments. In the presence of ammonium hydroxide intense deprotonated ions are generated. Both positive and negative ion ESMS experiments were found to be useful for molecular mass and structure determination of ten ginsenoside standards. Negative ion experiments made possible the determination of the molecular mass of each ginsenoside standard, the mass of the triterpene core and the masses and sequences of the sugar residues. Positive ion ESMS experiments with the alkali metal cations Li+ or Na+ and the transition metal cations Co2+, Ni2+ and Zn2+ were also useful in determining molecular masses. These alkali and transition metal cations form strongly bonded attachment ions with the ginsenosides. As a result, the CID mass spectra of the metal attachment ions show a variety of (structure characteristic) fragmentations. These experiments can be used to determine the identity of the triterpene core, the types and attachment points of sugars to the core and the nature of the O-glycosidic linkages in the appended disaccharides. Combining the results from the negative and positive ion experiments provides a promising approach to the structure analysis of this class of natural products.
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