RATIONALE: Accurate quantitative analysis of lipophilic toxins by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) requires calibration solution reference materials (RMs) for individual toxin analogs. Untargeted analysis is aimed at identifying a vast number of compounds and thus validation of fully quantitative untargeted methods is not feasible. However, a semi-quantitative approach allowing for profiling is still required and will be strengthened by knowledge of the relative molar response (RMR) of analogs in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) with electrospray ionization (ESI).
METHODS: RMR factors were evaluated for toxins from the okadaic acid (OA/DTXs), yessotoxin (YTX), pectenotoxin (PTX), azaspiracid (AZA) and cyclic imine (CI) toxin groups, in both solvent standards and environmental sample extracts. Since compound ionization and fragmentation influences the MS response of toxins, RMRs were assessed under different chromatographic conditions (gradient, isocratic) and MS acquisition modes (SIM, SRM, All-ion, target MS/MS) on low and high resolution mass spectrometers.
RESULTS: In general, RMRs were not significantly impacted by chromatographic conditions (isocratic vs gradient), with the exception of DTX1. MS acquisition modes had a more significant impact, with PnTX-G and SPX differing notably. For a given toxin group, response factors were generally in the range of 0.5 to 2. The cyclic imines were an exception.
CONCLUSIONS: Differences in RMRs between toxins of a same chemical base structure were not significant enough to indicate major issues for non-targeted semi-quantitative analysis, where there is limited or no availability of standards for many compounds, and where high degrees of accuracy are not required. Differences in RMRs should be considered when developing methods that use a standard of a single analogue to quantitate other toxins from the same group.