A novel method was developed for the analysis of molecular species in neutral lipid classes, using separation by normal phase high-performance liquid chromatography, followed by detection by evaporative light-scattering and electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry. Monoacid standards, i.e. sterol esters, triacylglycerols, fatty acids, diacylglycerols, free sterols and monoacylglycerols, were separated to baseline on microbore 3 mu m-silica gel columns. Complete or partial separation of molecular species in each lipid class permitted identification by automatic tandem mass spectrometry of ammonium adducts, produced via positive electrospray ionization. After optimization of the method, separation and identification of molecular species of various lipid classes was comprehensively tested by analysis of neutral lipids from the free lipid extract of maize flour.