Reversed-phase separation methods for glycan analysis

Gerda C.M. Vreeker, Manfred Wuhrer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Reversed-phase chromatography is a method that is often used for glycan separation. For this, glycans are often derivatized with a hydrophobic tag to achieve retention on hydrophobic stationary phases. The separation and elution order of glycans in reversed-phase chromatography is highly dependent on the hydrophobicity of the tag and the contribution of the glycan itself to the retention. The contribution of the different monosaccharides to the retention strongly depends on the position and linkage, and isomer separation may be achieved. The influence of sialic acids and fucoses on the retention of glycans is still incompletely understood and deserves further study. Analysis of complex samples may come with incomplete separation of glycan species, thereby complicating reversed-phase chromatography with fluorescence or UV detection, whereas coupling with mass spectrometry detection allows the resolution of complex mixtures. Depending on the column properties, eluents, and run time, separation of isomeric and isobaric structures can be accomplished with reversed-phase chromatography. Alternatively, porous graphitized carbon chromatography and hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography are also able to separate isomeric and isobaric structures, generally without the necessity of glycan labeling. Hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography, porous graphitized carbon chromatography, and reversed-phase chromatography all serve different research purposes and thus can be used for different research questions. A great advantage of reversed-phase chromatography is its broad distribution as it is used in virtually every bioanalytical research laboratory, making it an attracting platform for glycan analysis. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-378
Number of pages20
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Glycan
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Reversed phase
  • Separation


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