Sialic acids play many important roles in several physiological and pathological processes, including cancers, infection, and blood diseases. Sialic acids are fragile and prone to fragmentation under electrospray ionization and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization. It is crucial to modify sialic acids for qualitative and quantitative identification of their change in abundance in complex biological samples. Permethylation is a method of choice for sialic acid stabilization, but the harsh conditions during permethylation may lead to the decomposition of O-acetyl groups. Esterification or amidation in solution effectively protects sialic acids, yet it is not trivial to purify glycans from their reagents. Quantitative analysis of glycans can be achieved by labeling their reducing end using fluorescent tags. Loss of sialic acids during labeling is a major concern. In this study, we demonstrated the utility of sialic acids modification for the analysis of sialyl oligosaccharides and glycopeptides. Without modification, sialic acids are partially or completely lost during sample preparation, leading to the presence of false glycans or glycopeptides in the sample. The stabilized sialic acids not only result in accurate identification of sialylated glycans but also improve the characterization of intact glycopeptides. The modification of sialic acids on the solid support facilitates analysis of glycans and their intact glycoproteins.
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