Experimental MS(n) mass spectral libraries currently do not adequately cover chemical space. This limits the robust annotation of metabolites in metabolomics studies of complex biological samples. In-silico fragmentation libraries would improve the identification of compounds from experimental multi-stage fragmentation data when experimental reference data is unavailable. Here we present a freely-available software package to automatically control Mass Frontier software to construct in-silico mass spectral libraries, and to perform spectral matching. Based on two case studies we have demonstrated that HAMMER allows researchers to generate in-silico mass spectral libraries in an automated and high-throughput fashion with little or no human intervention required.
Structurally-related alkaloids were analyzed by electrospray ionization/multiple stage mass spectrometry (ESI/MS(n)) at varying collision energies to demonstrate a conceptual algorithm, precursor ion fingerprinting (PIF). PIF is a new approach for interpreting and library-searching ESI mass spectra predicated on the precursor ions of structurally-related compounds and their matching product ion spectra. Multiple-stage mass spectra were compiled and constructed into "spectral trees" that illustrated the compounds product ion spectra in their respective mass spectral stages. The precursor ions of these alkaloids were characterized and their spectral trees incorporated into an MS(n) library. These data will be used to construct a universal, searchable, and transferable library of MS(n) spectra. In addition, PIF will generate a proposed structural arrangement utilizing previously characterized ion structures, which will assist in the identification of unknown compounds.
Metabolite identification plays a crucial role in the interpretation of metabolomics research results. Due to its sensitivity and widespread implementation, a favourite analytical method used in metabolomics is electrospray mass spectrometry. In this paper, we demonstrate our results in attempting to incorporate the potentials of multistage mass spectrometry into the metabolite identification routine. New software tools were developed and implemented which facilitate the analysis of multistage mass spectra and allow for efficient removal of spectral artefacts. The pre-processed fragmentation patterns are saved as fragmentation trees. Fragmentation trees are characteristic of molecular structure. We demonstrate the reproducibility and robustness of the acquisition of such trees on a model compound. The specificity of fragmentation trees allows for distinguishing structural isomers, as shown on a pair of isomeric prostaglandins. This approach to the analysis of the multistage mass spectral characterisation of compounds is an important step towards formulating a generic metabolite identification method.
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