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Suspect screening of natural toxins in surface and drinking water by high performance liquid chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry

AuthorsPicardo, Massimo; Sanchís, Josep ; Farré, Marinella
KeywordsSurface water
Suspect screening
High resolution mass spectrometry
Natural toxins
Issue DateDec-2020
CitationChemosphere 261:127888 (2020)
AbstractBesides anthropogenic contamination, freshwater environments can also be affected by the presence of natural toxins. Mycotoxins, plant toxins and cyanotoxins are the most relevant groups that can be found in the aquatic system. However, until now, only cyanotoxins have been more carefully studied. In the present work, single workflow for the assessment of natural toxins in waters, based on suspect screening and target screening of a selected group of toxins is presented. The approach is based on a triple-stage solid-phase extraction (SPE) able to isolate a wide range of natural toxins of different polarities, followed by liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (HPLC-ddHRMS2) using a Q-Exactive Orbitrap analyser. The acquisition was performed in full-scan (FS) and data-dependant acquisition (ddMS2) mode, working under positive and negative mode. For the tentative identification, different on-line databases such as ChemSpider and MzCloud and an in-house natural toxins list with 2384 structures, that includes cyanotoxins, plant toxins and mycotoxins, were used. Also, thanks to the MS2 data, it was possible to achieve a high level of tentative identification confidence, but confirmation was only possible comparing the standards of the suspected compounds. For those, the analytical parameters of the developed method were also validated, and the quantification was possible by external calibration. Validation showed recoveries in the range between 53 and 95%, and method limits of detection (MDL) between 0.02 and 1.22 μg/L. This approach was applied to study natural toxins in 4 sampling sites along the Ter River in Catalonia (NE Spain). In this preliminary study 23 natural toxins were tentatively identified, and 9 of them confirmed (aflatoxin B1, anatoxin-a, nodularin, microcystin-LR, baicalein, kojic acid, cinchonine, B-asarone and atropine). The results of the quantification of these compounds showed concentrations below 1 μg/L in all cases, that is considered safe according to the actual legislation. This suspect screening approach allows a more comprehensive assessment of natural toxins in natural waters.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.127888
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