RATIONALE: Ambient laser ablation with mass spectrometric detection is a powerful method for direct analysis of biological samples in their native environment. Capillary electrophoresis (CE) can separate complex mixtures of biological molecules prior to mass spectrometry (MS) analysis and an ambient sampling interface for CE/MS will allow the detection of minor components.
METHODS: An infrared (IR) laser ablated and transferred sample materials under ambient conditions for direct loading onto the CE separation column. Samples were deposited on a transparent target and ablated in transmission geometry using a pulsed mid-IR laser. The ablated materials were captured in the exposed sampling solvent and then loaded into a capillary by electrokinetic injection for separation and analysis by electrospray ionization (ESI)-MS.
RESULTS: The system was tested using mixtures of peptide and protein standards. It is estimated that tens of fmol of material was transferred from the ablation target for injection into the CE system and the theoretical plate number was between 1000 and 3000.
CONCLUSIONS: A novel interface for ambient sampling to CE/MS was developed. The interface is generally applicable and has potential utility for mass spectrometry imaging as well as the loading of microfluidic devices from untreated ambient samples.