A sensitive and selective capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (CE-MS) method for determination of saturated fatty acids (FAs) was developed by using dicationic ion-pairing reagents forming singly charged complexes with anionic FAs. For negative ESI detection, 21 anionic FAs at pH 10 were separated using ammonium formate buffer containing 40% acetonitrile modifier in normal polarity mode in CE by optimizing various parameters. This method showed good separation efficiency, but the sensitivity of the method to short-chain fatty acids was quite low, causing acetic and propionic acids to be undetectable even at 100 mgL−1 in negative ESI-MS detection. Out of the four dicationic ion-pairing reagents tested, N,N’-dibutyl 1,1’-pentylenedipyrrolidium infused through a sheath-liquid ion source during CE separation was the best reagent regarding improved sensitivity and favorably complexed with anionic FAs for detection in positive ion ESI-MS. The monovalent complex showed improved ionization efficiency, providing the limits of detection (LODs) for 15 FAs ranging from 0.13 to 2.88 μg/mL and good linearity (R2 > 0.99) up to 150 μg/mL. Compared to the negative detection results, the effect was remarkable for the detection of short- and medium-chain fatty acids. The optimized CE-paired ion electrospray (PIESI)-MS method was utilized for the determination of FAs in cheese and coffee with simple pretreatment. This method may be extended for sensitive analysis of unsaturated fatty acids.
- Capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (CE-MS)
- Ion paring reagent
- Paired ion electrospray ionization (PIESI)
- Saturated fatty acid