Natural and synthetic glycosphingolipids containing neutral sugars have been analyzed by positive and negative ion fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry. Basic structural characterization including saccharide size and sequence and ceramide composition is possible on the basis of the fragment ions observed. The degree of fragmentation could be increased by using higher sample concentrations and lower fast atom beam energies. Commercially available synthetic compounds that had been presumed to be pure were shown to contain homologous fatty acids. Mixtures of glycosphingolipids such as those obtained from Gaucher's spleen and from human erythrocytes can be characterized and quantitated.
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