Coulometry-assisted quantitation in spray ionization mass spectrometry

Xiaowei Song, Hao Chen, Richard N. Zare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The concentration of target analyte in a mixture can be quantified by combining coulometric measurements with spray ionization mass spectrometry. A three-electrode system screen printed on the polymer support acts both as the coulometry platform for electrochemical oxidation and the sample loading tip for spray ionization. After loading a droplet of the analyte solution onto the tip, two steps were taken to implement quantitation. First, the electrochemical oxidation potential was optimized with cyclic voltammetry followed by coulometric measurements to calculate the amount of oxidized analyte under a constant low voltage within a fixed period of time (5 s). Then, a high voltage (+4.5 kV) was applied to the tip to trigger spray ionization for measuring the oxidation yield from the native analyte ion and its oxidized product ion intensities by mass spectrometry. The analyte's native concentration is quantified by dividing the oxidized product's concentration (based on Coulomb's law) and the oxidation yield (estimated from mass spectrometry [MS] assuming that the parent and oxidation product have nearly the same ionization efficiencies). The workflow has an advantage in being free of any standard for constructing the quantitation curve. Several model compounds (tyrosine, dopamine, and angiotensin II) were selected for method validation. It was demonstrated that this strategy was feasible with an accuracy of ~15% for a wide coverage of different species including endogenous metabolites and peptides. As an example of its possible practical use, it was initially employed to make a bilirubin assay in urine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere4628
JournalJournal of Mass Spectrometry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Spectroscopy


  • bilirubin
  • conductive polymer
  • coulometry
  • quantitation
  • spray ionization


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