Combined hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography-scanning field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry-time-of-flight mass spectrometry for untargeted metabolomics

Untargeted metabolite profiling of biological samples is a challenge for analytical science due to the high degree of complexity of biofluids. Isobaric species may also not be resolved using mass spectrometry alone. As a result of these factors, many potential biomarkers may not be detected or are masked by co-eluting interferences in conventional LC-MS metabolomic analyses. In this study, a comprehensive liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry workflow incorporating a fast-scanning miniaturised high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry separation (LC-FAIMS-MS) is applied to the untargeted metabolomic analysis of human urine. The time-of-flight mass spectrometer used in the study was scanned at a rate of 20 scans s−1 enabling a FAIMS CF spectrum to be acquired within a 1-s scan time, maintaining an adequate number of data points across each LC peak. The developed method is demonstrated to be able to resolve co-eluting isomeric species and shows good reproducibility (%RSD < 4.9%). The nested datasets obtained for fresh, aged, and QC urine samples were submitted for multivariate statistical analysis. Seventy unique biomarker ions showing a statistically significant difference between fresh and aged urine were identified with optimal transmission CF values obtained across the full CF spectrum. The potential of using FAIMS to select ions for in-source collision-induced dissociation is demonstrated for FAIMS-selected methylxanthine ions yielding characteristic fragment ion species indicative of the precursor.