Analysis of the neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and isomers in surface water by FMOC derivatization liquid chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry

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Abstract

The neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), suspected to trigger neurodegenerative diseases, can be produced during cyanobacterial bloom events and subsequently affect ecosystems and water sources. Some of its isomers including β-amino-N-methylalanine (BAMA), N-(2-aminoethyl) glycine (AEG), and 2,4-diaminobutyric acid (DAB) may show different toxicities than BMAA. Here, we set out to provide a fast and sensitive method for the monitoring of AEG, BAMA, DAB and BMAA in surface waters. A procedure based on aqueous derivatization with 9-fluorenylmethyl chloroformate (FMOC-Cl) was investigated for this purpose. Under optimized conditions, a small aqueous sample aliquot (5 mL) was spiked with BMAA-d3 internal standard, subjected to FMOC-Cl derivatization, centrifuged, and analyzed. The high-throughput instrumental method (10 min per sample) involved on-line pre-concentration and desalting coupled to ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS). Chromatographic gradient and mobile phases were adjusted to obtain suitable separation of the 4 isomers. The method limits of detection were in the range of 2–5 ng L-1. In-matrix validation parameters including linearity range, accuracy, precision, and matrix effects were assessed. The method was applied to surface water samples (n = 82) collected at a large spatial scale in lakes and rivers in Canada. DAB was found in >70% of samples at variable concentrations (<3–1,900 ng L-1), the highest concentrations corresponding to lake samples in cyanobacterial bloom periods. BMAA was only reported (110 ng L-1) at one HAB-impacted location. This is one of the first studies to report on the profiles of AEG, BAMA, DAB, and BMAA in background and impacted surface waters.

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Duy, S. V., Munoz, G., Dinh, Q. T., Do, D. T., Simon, D. F., & Sauvé, S. (2019). Analysis of the neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and isomers in surface water by FMOC derivatization liquid chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry. PLoS ONE, 14(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220698

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