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Assessing the Structural Heterogeneity of Isomeric Homo and Copolymers: an Approach Combining Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry and Molecular Dynamics Simulations

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journal contribution
posted on 12.10.2020, 13:04 by Quentin Duez, Sébastien Moins, Olivier Coulembier, Julien De Winter, Jérôme Cornil, Pascal Gerbaux
Synthetic polymers occupy a unique place in the field of ion mobility mass spectrometry (IMS–MS). Indeed, due to their intrinsic dispersity, they have the asset to offer a broad range of homologous ions with different lengths that can be detected in several charge states. In addition, the gas-phase structure of polymer ions mostly depends on their ability to screen the adducted charges. Several works dealing with linear, cyclic, and star-shaped polymers have already shown that the gas-phase structure of polymer ions heavily relies on the polymer architecture, i.e., the primary structure. In the present work, we move a step further by evaluating whether a relationship exists between the primary and secondary structures of synthetic homo and copolymers. The IMS–MS experiments will be further complemented by MD simulations. To highlight the effectiveness of IMS separation, we selected isomeric homo and copolymers made of lactide (LA) and propiolactone (PL) units. In this way, the mass analysis becomes useless since isomeric comonomer sequences can coexist for any given chain length. An UPLC method was implemented in the workflow to successfully separate all PL–LA comonomer sequences before infusion in the IMS–MS instrument. The analysis of doubly charged copolymers showed that the comonomer sequence has an impact on the IMS response. However, this only holds for copolymer ions with precise sizes and charge states, and this is therefore not a rule of thumb.