Complex biomolecules present in their natural sources have been difficult to analyze using traditional analytical approaches. Ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC-MS/MS) methods have the potential to enhance the discovery of a less well characterized and challenging class of biomolecules in plants, the ellagitannins. We present an approach that allows for the screening of ellagitannins by employing higher energy collision dissociation (HCD) to generate reporter ions for classification and collision-induced dissociation (CID) to generate unique fragmentation spectra for isomeric variants of previously unreported species. Ellagitannin anions efficiently form three characteristic reporter ions after HCD fragmentation that allows for the classification of unknown precursors that we call targeted reporter ion triggering (TRT). We demonstrate how a tandem HCD-CID experiment might be used to screen natural sources using UHPLC-MS/MS by application of 22 method conditions from which an optimized data-dependent acquisition (DDA) emerged. The method was verified not to yield false-positive results in complex plant matrices. We were able to identify 154 non-isomeric ellagitannins from strawberry leaves, which is 17 times higher than previously reported in the same matrix. The systematic inclusion of CID spectra for isomers of each species classified as an ellagitannin has never been possible before the development of this approach.
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