Glycosylinositol phosphorylceramides (GIPCs) are a class of acidic glycosphingolipids (GSLs) expressed by fungi, plants, and certain parasitic organisms, but not found in cells or tissues of mammals or other higher animals. Recent characterizations of fungal GIPCs point to an emerging diversity which could rival that already known for mammalian GSLs, and which can be expected to present a multitude of challenges for the analytical chemist. Previously, the use of Li+ cationization, in conjunction with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and low-energy collision-induced dissociation tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/CID-MS), was found to be particularly effective for detailed structural analysis of monohexosylceramides (cerebrosides) from a variety of sources, including fungi, especially minor components present in mixtures at extremely low abundance. In applying Li+ cationization to characterization of GIPCs, a substantial increase in both sensitivity and fragmentation was observed on collision-induced dissociation of [M + Li]+ versus [M + Na]+ for the same components analyzed under similar conditions, similar to results obtained previously with cerebrosides. Molecular adduct fragmentation patterns were found to be systematic and characteristic for both the glycosylinositol and ceramide moieties with or without phosphate. Interestingly, significant differences were observed in fragmentation patterns when comparing GIPCs having Manα1 → 2 versus Manα1 → 6Ins core linkages. In addition, it was useful to perform tandem product ion scans on primary fragments generated in the orifice region, equivalent to ESI-(CID-MS)2 mode. Finally, precursor ion scanning from appropriate glycosylinositol phosphate product ions yielded clean molecular ion profiles in the presence of obscuring impurity peaks. The methods were applied to detailed characterization of GIPC fractions of increasing structural complexity from a variety of fungi, including a non-pathogenic Basidiomycete (mushroom), Agaricus blazei, and pathogenic Euascomycete species such as Aspergillus fumigatus, Histoplasma capsulatum, and Sporothrix schenckii. The analysis confirmed a remarkable diversity of GIPC structures synthesized by the dimorphic S. schenckii, as well as differential expression of both glycosylinositol and ceramide structures in the mycelium and yeast forms of this mycopathogen. Mass spectrometry also established that the ceramides of some A. fumigatus GIPC fractions contain very little 2-hydroxylation of the long-chain fatty-N-acyl moiety, a feature that is not generally observed with fungal GIPCs. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.