Improving the Sensitivity, Resolution, and Peak Capacity of Gradient Elution in Capillary Liquid Chromatography with Large-Volume Injections by Using Temperature-Assisted On-Column Solute Focusing.
ABSTRACT: Capillary HPLC (cLC) with gradient elution is the separation method of choice for the fields of proteomics and metabolomics. This is due to the complementary nature of cLC flow rates and electrospray or nanospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS). The small column diameters result in good mass sensitivity. Good concentration sensitivity is also possible by injection of relatively large volumes of solution and relying on solvent-based solute focusing. However, if the injection volume is too large or solutes are poorly retained during injection, volume overload occurs which leads to altered peak shapes, decreased sensitivity, and lower peak capacity. Solutes that elute early even with the use of a solvent gradient are especially vulnerable to this problem. In this paper, we describe a simple, automated instrumental method, temperature-assisted on-column solute focusing (TASF), that is capable of focusing large volume injections of small molecules and peptides under gradient conditions. By injecting a large sample volume while cooling a short segment of the column inlet at subambient temperatures, solutes are concentrated into narrow bands at the head of the column. Rapidly raising the temperature of this segment of the column leads to separations with less peak broadening in comparison to solvent focusing alone. For large volume injections of both mixtures of small molecules and a bovine serum albumin tryptic digest, TASF improved the peak shape and resolution in chromatograms. TASF showed the most dramatic improvements with shallow gradients, which is particularly useful for biological applications. Results demonstrate the ability of TASF with gradient elution to improve the sensitivity, resolution, and peak capacity of volume overloaded samples beyond gradient compression alone. Additionally, we have developed and validated a double extrapolation method for predicting retention factors at extremes of temperature and mobile phase composition. Using this method, the effects of TASF can be predicted, allowing determination of the usefulness of this technique for a particular application.
Project description:Solvent-based on-column focusing is a powerful and well known approach for reducing the impact of pre-column dispersion in liquid chromatography. Here we describe an orthogonal temperature-based approach to focusing called temperature-assisted on-column solute focusing (TASF). TASF is founded on the same principles as the more commonly used solvent-based method wherein transient conditions are created that lead to high solute retention at the column inlet. Combining the low thermal mass of capillary columns and the temperature dependence of solute retention TASF is used effectively to compress injection bands at the head of the column through the transient reduction in column temperature to 5°C for a defined 7mm segment of a 6cm long 150?m I.D. column. Following the 30s focusing time, the column temperature is increased rapidly to the separation temperature of 60°C releasing the focused band of analytes. We developed a model to simulate TASF separations based on solute retention enthalpies, focusing temperature, focusing time, and column parameters. This model guides the systematic study of the influence of sample injection volume on column performance. All samples have solvent compositions matching the mobile phase. Over the 45-1050nL injection volume range evaluated, TASF reduces the peak width for all solutes with k' greater than or equal to 2.5, relative to controls. Peak widths resulting from injection volumes up to 1.3 times the column fluid volume with TASF are less than 5% larger than peak widths from a 45nL injection without TASF (0.07 times the column liquid volume). The TASF approach reduced concentration detection limits by a factor of 12.5 relative to a small volume injection for low concentration samples. TASF is orthogonal to the solvent focusing method. Thus, it can be used where on-column focusing is required, but where implementation of solvent-based focusing is difficult.
Project description:In this work we characterize the development of a method to enhance temperature-assisted on-column solute focusing (TASF) called two-stage TASF. A new instrument was built to implement two-stage TASF consisting of a linear array of three independent, electronically controlled Peltier devices (thermoelectric coolers, TECs). Samples are loaded onto the chromatographic column with the first two TECs, TEC A and TEC B, cold. In the two-stage TASF approach TECs A and B are cooled during injection. TEC A is heated following sample loading. At some time following TEC A's temperature rise, TEC B's temperature is increased from the focusing temperature to a temperature matching that of TEC A. Injection bands are focused twice on-column, first on the initial TEC, e.g. single-stage TASF, then refocused on the second, cold TEC. Our goal is to understand the two-stage TASF approach in detail. We have developed a simple yet powerful digital simulation procedure to model the effect of changing temperature in the two focusing zones on retention, band shape and band spreading. The simulation can predict experimental chromatograms resulting from spatial and temporal temperature programs in combination with isocratic and solvent gradient elution. To assess the two-stage TASF method and the accuracy of the simulation well characterized solutes are needed. Thus, retention factors were measured at six temperatures (25-75°C) at each of twelve mobile phases compositions (0.05-0.60 acetonitrile/water) for homologs of n-alkyl hydroxylbenzoate esters and n-alkyl p-hydroxyphenones. Simulations accurately reflect experimental results in showing that the two-stage approach improves separation quality. For example, two-stage TASF increased sensitivity for a low retention solute by a factor of 2.2 relative to single-stage TASF and 8.8 relative to isothermal conditions using isocratic elution. Gradient elution results for two-stage TASF were more encouraging. Application of two-stage TASF increased peak height for the least retained solute in the test mixture by a factor of 3.2 relative to single-stage TASF and 22.3 compared to isothermal conditions for an injection four-times the column volume. TASF improved resolution and increased peak capacity; for a 12-min separation peak capacity increased from 75 under isothermal conditions to 146 using single-stage TASF, and 185 for two-stage TASF.
Project description:On-column focusing is essential for satisfactory performance using capillary scale columns. On-column focusing results from generating transient conditions at the head of the column that lead to high solute retention. Solvent-based on-column focusing is a well-known approach to achieve this. Temperature-assisted on-column focusing (TASF) can also be effective. TASF improves focusing by cooling a short segment of the column inlet to a temperature that is lower than the column temperature during the injection and then rapidly heating the focusing segment to the match the column temperature. A troublesome feature of an earlier implementation of TASF was the need to leave the capillary column unpacked in that portion of the column inside the fitting connecting it to the injection valve. We have overcome that problem in this work by packing the head of the column with solid silica spheres. In addition, technical improvements to the TASF instrumentation include: selection of a more powerful thermo-electric cooler to create faster temperature changes and electronic control for easy incorporation into conventional capillary instruments. Used in conjunction with solvent-based focusing and with isocratic elution, volumes of paraben samples (esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid) up to 4.5-times the column liquid volume can be injected without significant bandspreading due to volume overload. Interestingly, the shapes of the peaks from the lowest volume injections that we can make, 30nL, are improved when using TASF. TASF is very effective at reducing the detrimental effects of pre-column dispersion using isocratic elution. Finally, we show that TASF can be used to focus the neuropeptide galanin in a sample solvent with elution strength stronger than the mobile phase. Here, the stronger solvent is necessitated by the need to prevent peptide adsorption prior to and during analysis.
Project description:On-column focusing or preconcentration is a well-known approach to increase concentration sensitivity by generating transient conditions during the injection that result in high solute retention. Preconcentration results from two phenomena: (1) solutes are retained as they enter the column. Their velocities are k'-dependent and lower than the mobile phase velocity and (2) zones are compressed due to the step-gradient resulting from the higher elution strength mobile phase passing through the solute zones. Several workers have derived the result that the ratio of the eluted zone width (in time) to the injected time width is the ratio k2/k1, where k1 is the retention factor of a solute in the sample solvent and k2 is the retention factor in the mobile phase (isocratic). Mills et al. proposed a different factor. To date, neither of the models has been adequately tested. The goal of this work was to evaluate quantitatively these two models. We used n-alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) as solutes. By making large injections to create obvious volume overload, we could measure accurately the ratio of widths (eluted/injected) over a range of values of k1 and k2. The Mills et al. model does not fit the data. The data are in general agreement with the factor k2/k1, but focusing is about 10% better than the prediction. We attribute the extra focusing to the fact that the second, compression, phenomenon provides a narrower zone than that expected for the passage of a step gradient through the zone.
Project description:Two polystyrene-based capillary monolithic columns of different length (50 and 250 mm) were used to evaluate the effects of column length on gradient separation of protein digests. A tryptic digest of a 9-protein mixture was used as a test sample. Peak capacities were determined from selected extracted ion chromatograms, and tandem mass spectrometry data were used for database matching using the MASCOT search engine. Peak capacities and protein identification scores were higher for the long column with all gradients. Peak capacities appear to approach a plateau for longer gradient times; maximum peak capacity was estimated to be 294 for the short column and 370 for the long column. Analyses with similar gradient slope produced a ratio of the peak capacities of 3.36 for the long and the short column, which is slightly higher than the expected value of the square root of the column length ratio. The use of a longer monolith improves peptide separation, as reflected by higher peak capacity, and also increases protein identification, as observed from higher identification scores and a larger number of identified peptides. Attention has also been paid to the peak production rate (PPR, peak capacity per unit time). For short analysis times, the short column produces a higher PPR, while for analysis times longer than 40 min, the PPR of the 250-mm column is higher.
Project description:Optimisation of peak capacity is an important strategy in gradient liquid chromatography (LC). This can be achieved by using either long columns or columns packed with small particles. Monolithic columns allow the use of long columns at relatively low back-pressure. The gain in peak capacity using long columns was evaluated by the separation of a tryptic bovine serum albumin digest with an LC-UV-mass spectrometry (MS) system and monolithic columns of different length (150 and 750 mm). Peak capacities were determined from UV chromatograms and MS/MS data were used for Mascot database searching. Analyses with a similar gradient slope for the two columns produced ratios of the peak capacities that were close to the expected value of the square root of the column length ratio. Peak capacities of the short column were 12.6 and 25.0 with 3 and 15 min gradients, respectively, and 29.7 and 41.0 for the long column with 15 and 75 min gradients, respectively. Protein identification scores were also higher for the long column, 641 and 750 for the 3- and 15-min gradients with the short column and 1,376 and 993 for the 15- and 75-min gradients with the long column. Thus, the use of long monolithic columns provides improved peptide separation and increased reliability of protein identification.
Project description:Reversed-phase liquid chromatography is the most commonly used separation method for shotgun proteomics. Nanoflow chromatography has emerged as the preferred chromatography method for its increased sensitivity and separation. Despite its common use, there are a wide range of parameters and conditions used across research groups. These parameters have an effect on the quality of the chromatographic separation, which is critical to maximizing the number of peptide identifications and minimizing ion suppression. Here we examined the relationship between column lengths, gradient lengths, peptide identifications, and peptide peak capacity. We found that while longer column and gradient lengths generally increase peptide identifications, the degree of improvement is dependent on both parameters and is diminished at longer column and gradients. Peak capacity, in comparison, showed a more linear increase with column and gradient lengths. We discuss the discrepancy between these two results and some of the considerations that should be taken into account when deciding on the chromatographic conditions for a proteomics experiment.
Project description:Biological samples in lipidomic studies can consist of extremely complex mixtures due to the diverse range of species and isomerism. Herein, highly efficient, in-house packed microcapillary columns introduce the potential to better separate these complex mixtures. We compared the effects of changing column length (15, 30, and 60 cm) and inner diameter (75 and 100 ?m) on lipid separation efficiency by reversed-phase gradient analysis using ultrahigh-pressure liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry with operating pressures ranging from 450 to 2200 bar. Seven lipid standards composed of phosphatidylcholine and triacylglycerol species were analyzed at four different gradient rates to calculate conditional peak capacity. The longest column, 60 cm, at the shallowest gradient of 2% gave the highest peak capacity of 359 with a separation window of 2 h. The intermediate column length of 30 cm with 75 ?m inner diameter provided a peak capacity of 287 with a separation window of 1 h. There was no significant difference in peak capacity between 75 and 100 ?m inner diameter columns. This study showed that using highly efficient microcapillary columns increased peak capacity and resolution of lipids, and thus, this technique seems promising for enhancing lipid coverage and enabling better discovery of lipid biomarkers.
Project description:Porous graphitic carbon (PGC) is an important tool in a chromatographer's armory that retains polar compounds with mass spectrometry (MS)-compatible solvents. However, its applicability is severely limited by an unpredictable loss of retention, which can be attributed to contamination. The solutions offered fail to restore the original retention and our observations of retention time shifts of gemcitabine/metabolites on PGC are not consistent with contamination. The mobile phase affects the ionization state of analytes and the polarizable PGC surface that influences the strength of dispersive forces governing retention on the stationary phase. We hypothesized that failure to maintain the same PGC surface before and after running a gradient is a cause of the observed retention loss/variability on PGC. Herein, we optimize the choice of mobile phase solvent in a gradient program with three parts: a preparatory phase, which allows binding of analytes to column; an elution phase, which gives the required separation/peak shape; and a maintenance phase, to preserve the required retention capacity. Via liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) analysis of gemcitabine and its metabolites extracted from tumor tissue, we demonstrate reproducible chromatography on three PGC columns of different ages. This approach simplifies use of the PGC to the same level as that of a C-18 column, removes the need for column regeneration, and minimizes run times, thus allowing PGC columns to be used to their full potential.
Project description:The general limitations on liquid chromatographic performance in isocratic and gradient elution are now well understood. Many workers have contributed to this understanding and to developing graphical methods, or plots, to illustrate the capabilities of chromatographic systems over a wide range of values of operational parameters. These have been invaluable in getting a picture, in broad strokes, about the value of changing an operational parameter or the value of one separation approach over another. Here we present a plotting approach more appropriate for determining how to use chromatography most efficiently in one's own laboratory. The axes are linear: column length vertical and mobile phase velocity horizontal. In this coordinate system, straight lines with intercept zero correspond to different values of t0. Hyperbolas correspond to values of pressure as the product of length and velocity is proportional to pressure. For a given relationship between theoretical plate height and velocity (e.g., van Deemter), the number of theoretical plates as a function of column length and mobile phase velocity is a surface (z direction) to the x and y of velocity and length. By representing the surface as contours, a two-dimensional plot results. Any point along a constant pressure hyperbola represents the best one can do given the particle diameter, solute diffusion coefficient, and temperature. The user can quickly see how to use the pressure for speed or for more theoretical plates. Sets of such plots allow for comparisons among particle diameters or temperatures. Analogous plots of peak capacity for gradient elution are equally revealing. The plots lead instantly to understanding liquid chromatographic optimization at a practical level. They neatly illustrate the value (or not) of changing pump pressure, particle diameter, or temperature for fast or slow separations in either isocratic or gradient elution. They are illustrated with a focus on maximizing plate count with a given analysis time (isocratic), the effect of volume overload (isocratic), and separations of a limited number of peptides with a peak capacity coming from statistical peak overlap theory (gradient).