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Accurate Mass Fragment Library for Rapid Analysis of Pesticides on Produce Using Ambient Pressure Desorption Ionization with High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry


U.S. food imports have been increasing steadily for decades, intensifying the need for a rapid and sensitive screening technique. A method has been developed that uses foam disks to sample the surface of incoming produce. This work provides complimentary information to the extensive amount of published pesticide fragmentation data collected using LCMS systems (Sack et al. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 59, 6383–6411, 2011; Mol et al. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 403, 2891–2908, 2012). The disks are directly analyzed using transmission-mode direct analysis in real time (DART) ambient pressure desorption ionization coupled to a high resolution accurate mass-mass spectrometer (HRAM-MS). In order to provide more certainty in the identification of the pesticides detected, a library of accurate mass fragments and isotopes of the protonated parent molecular ion (the [M+H]+) has been developed. The HRAM-MS is equipped with a quadrupole mass filter, providing the capability of “data-dependent” fragmentation, as opposed to “all -ion” fragmentation (where all of the ions enter a collision chamber and are fragmented at once). A temperature gradient for the DART helium stream and multiple collision energies were employed to detect and fragment 164 pesticides of varying chemical classes, sizes, and polarities. The accurate mass information of precursor ([M+H]+ ion) and fragment ions is essential in correctly identifying chemical contaminants on the surface of imported produce. Additionally, the inclusion of isotopes of the [M+H]+ in the database adds another metric to the confirmation process. The fragmentation data were collected using a Q-Exactive mass spectrometer and were added to a database used to process data collected with an Exactive mass spectrometer, an instrument that is more readily available for this screening application. The commodities investigated range from smooth-skinned produce such as apples to rougher surfaces like broccoli. The minimal sample preparation and absence of chromatography has shortened the analysis time to about 15 min per sample, and the simplicity and robustness of the technique make it ideal for rapid screening.

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The authors thank to Travis Falconer, Greg Mercer, and Detlef Schumann for helpful discussions and assistance with preparing figures.

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Correspondence to Sara E. Kern.

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Kern, S.E., Lin, L.A. & Fricke, F.L. Accurate Mass Fragment Library for Rapid Analysis of Pesticides on Produce Using Ambient Pressure Desorption Ionization with High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry. J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 25, 1482–1488 (2014).

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  • DART ionization
  • Exactive Orbitrap
  • Q-Exactive Orbitrap
  • Pesticide analysis
  • Surface screening technique
  • Rapid analysis