The arabinoxylans are one of the main components of plant cell walls and are known to play major roles in plant tissues properties depending in particular on their structural features. It has been recently shown that one of the strategies developed by resurrection plants to overcome dehydration is based on cell wall composition. For this purpose, the structural characterization of arabinoxylans from desiccation-tolerant grass Eragrostis nindensis (E. nindensis) was compared with its close relative, the desiccation-sensitive Eragrostis tef (E. tef) in order to further understand mechansism of desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants.


Ion mobility spectrometry coupled to mass spectrometry (IM-MS) in combination with the conventional mass spectrometric approaches, including matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS), electrospray ionization multistage tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MSn) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), were used to characterize arabinoxylan fragments obtained after endo-xylanase digestion of leave extracts from E. nindensis and E. tef.


Whole fingerprinting by MALDI-MS analysis showed the presence of various arabinoxylan fragments within leaves of E. nindensis and E. tef. The monosaccharide composition and some linkage information were determined by GC/MS experiments. Information regarding the branching and sequence details was obtained by ESI-MSn experiments after sample permethylation. The presence of structural isomeric ions with different collision cross sections was evidenced by IM-MS which could be differentiated using ESI-MSn.


We have shown that an orthogonal approach, and especially IM-MS associated to ESI-MSn (n = 2 to 4) and GC/MS allowed characterization of arabinoxylan fragments of E. nindensis and E. tef and revealed the presence of isomeric structures. The same arabinoxylan structures were identified for both species but in different relative abundance. Moreover, this work illustrated that IM-MS can efficiently separate isomeric structures and advantageously complements the conventional mass spectrometric methodologies used for arabinoxylan structural characterization. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.