Determination of BMAA and three alkaloid cyanotoxins in lake water using dansyl chloride derivatization and high-resolution mass spectrometry


A new analytical method was developed for the detection of alkaloid cyanotoxins in harmful algal blooms. The detection of the nonproteinogenic amino acid β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) and two of its conformation isomers, 2,4-diaminobutyric acid (DAB) and N-(2-aminoethyl) glycine (AEG), as well as three alkaloid cyanotoxins, anatoxin-a (ANA-a), cylindrospermopsin (CYN), and saxitoxin (STX), is presented. The use of a chemical derivatization with dansyl chloride (DNS) allows easier separation with reversed phase liquid chromatography. Detection with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) with the Q-Exactive enables high selectivity with specific fragmentation as well as exact mass detection, reducing considerably the possibilities of isobaric interferences. Previous to analysis, a solid phase extraction (SPE) step is used for purification and preconcentration. After DNS derivatization, samples are submitted to ultra high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with heated electrospray ionisation and the Q-Exactive mass spectrometer (UHPLC-HESI-HRMS). With an internal calibration using isotopically-labeled DAB-D3, the method was validated with good linearity (R 2 > 0.998), and method limits of detection and quantification (MLD and MLQ) for target compounds ranged from 0.007 to 0.01 μg L−1 and from 0.02 to 0.04 μg L−1, respectively. Accuracy and within-day/between-days variation coefficients were below 15 %. SPE recovery values ranged between 86 and 103 %, and matrix effects recovery values ranged between 75 and 96 %. The developed analytical method was successfully validated with 12 different lakes samples, and concentrations were found ranging between 0.009 and 0.3 μg L−1 except for STX which was not found in any sample.

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The Fond de Recherche Québec Nature et technologies (FQRNT) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) are acknowledged for financial support. Marc Sinotte and Christian Deblois from the Ministère du Développement Durable, de l’Environnement, et de lutte aux changements climatiques, (MDDELCC—The province of Québec Ministry of the Environment) are acknowledged for providing the samples used in this project and for their scientific support. We thank Thermo Fisher Scientific and Phytronix Technologies for their support. We also thank Paul B. Fayad and Sung Vo Duy for their technical help and scientific support.

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Correspondence to Sébastien Sauvé.

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Roy-Lachapelle, A., Solliec, M. & Sauvé, S. Determination of BMAA and three alkaloid cyanotoxins in lake water using dansyl chloride derivatization and high-resolution mass spectrometry. Anal Bioanal Chem 407, 5487–5501 (2015).

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  • Water
  • Organic compounds/trace organic compounds
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Blue-green algae