Rapid identification of C21 steroidal saponins in Cynanchum versicolor Bunge by electrospray ionization multi-stage tandem mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry.Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2007; 21(3):279-85.RC
Electrospray ionization multi-stage tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MSn) and liquid chromatography coupled with on-line electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MSn) were performed to elucidate the clearage rule of nine investigated C21 steroidal saponins and identify them in the saponin fraction of 90% ethanolic extracts from the root and rhizome of Cynanchum versicolor Bunge. The fragments of C21 steroidal saponins in positive and negative ESI-MSn were used to deduce their mass spectral fragmentation mechanisms, and their structures were further confirmed by ESI-MSn in positive mode. The MSn spectra of the [M+Na]+ ions for saponins provided a wealth of structural information on glycosidic bond cleavage, which allowed a straightforward interpretation of spectra, with respect to the identifications of features such as the sequences of sugars attached to saponins and sugar type. By using LC/ESI-MSn, nine C21 steroidal saponins were detected in the saponin fraction of C. versicolor, and an isomer of atratoglaucoside A was elucidated simultaneously. All nine compounds showed an abundant ion for the loss of 46 Da (HCOOH) from [M+Na]+. The losses of monosaccharide sequences and aglycone as neutral fragmentation from [M+Na-HCOOH]+ were also acquired as the characteristic ions of these C21 steroidal saponins. It provided important information on monosaccharide sequences and in particular on sugar types and could be used to identify and elucidate other C21 steroidal saponins. These studies allowed us to rapidly identify C21 steroidal saponins from Radix cynanchi atrati. It is indicated that the described method had wide applicability to rapidly screen and provide structural confirmation on C21 steroidal saponins in crude materials.