Screening of lipophilic marine toxins in shellfish and algae: Development of a library using liquid chromatography coupled to orbitrap mass spectrometry

A.P. Gerssen, P.J. Mulder, J. de Boer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Most liquid chromatography (LC) mass spectrometric (MS) methods used for routine monitoring of lipophilic marine toxins focus on the analysis of the 13 toxins that are stated in European Union legislation. However, to date over 200 lipophilic marine toxins have been described in the literature. To fill this gap, a screening method using LC coupled to high resolution (HR) orbitrap MS (resolution 100. 000) for marine lipophilic toxins has been developed. The method can detect a wide variety of okadaic acid (OA), yessotoxin (YTX), azaspiracid (AZA) and pectenotoxin (PTX) group toxins. To build a library of toxins, shellfish and algae samples with various toxin profiles were obtained from Norway, Ireland, United Kingdom, Portugal and Italy. Each sample extract was analyzed with and without collision induced dissociation fragmentation. Based on their mass and specific fragmentation pattern, 85 different toxins were identified comprising 33 OA, 26 YTX, 18 AZA and 8 PTX group toxins. A major complication of full scan HRMS is the huge amount of data generated (file size), which restricts the possibility of a fast search. A software program called metAlign was used to reduce the orbitrap MS data files. The 200-fold reduced data files were screened using an additional software tool for metAlign: 'Search_LCMS'. A search library was constructed for the 85 identified toxins. The library contains information about compound name, accurate mass, mass deviation (<5. ppm), retention time (min) and retention time deviation (<0.2. min). An important feature is that the library can easily be exchanged with other instruments as the generated metAlign files are not brand-specific. The developed screening procedure was tested by analyzing a set of known positive and blank samples, processing them with metAlign and searching with Search_LCMS. A toxin profile was determined for each of the contaminated samples. No toxins were found in the blank sample, which is in line with the results obtained for this sample in the routine monitoring program (rat bioassay and tandem LC-MS). © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-185
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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