Rationale The separation of isomeric compounds with major differences in their physiochemical and pharmacokinetic properties is of particular importance in pharmaceutical R&D. However, the structural assessment and separation of these compounds with current analytical techniques and methods are still a challenge. In this study, we describe strategies to separate the various structural and stereo-isomers.
Methods The separation of ten structural and stereo-isomers was investigated using Trapped and Travelling Wave ion mobility spectrometry (TIMS and TWIMS). Different strategies including adduct ion formation with Na, Li, Ag and Cs as well as fragmentation before and after the ion mobility cell were applied to separate the isomeric compounds.
Results All the counter ions (in particular Na) strongly coordinated with the test analytes in all the IMS systems. The highest resolving power was achieved for the sodium and lithium adducts using TIMS-time-of-flight (TOF). However, some separation was attained on a Synapt HDMS system with its unique potential to monitor the ion mobility of the product ions. The elution order of the adduct ions was the same in all instruments, in which, unexpectedly, the para-substituted isomer of the [M + Na](+) species had the lowest collision cross section followed by the meta- and ortho-isomers.
Conclusions The formation of adduct ions could facilitate the separation of structural and even stereo-isomers by generating different molecular conformations. In addition, fragmenting isomers before or after the ion mobility cell is a valuable strategy to separate and also to assess the structures of adducts and different conformers.