Successful adaption of a forensic toxicological screening workflow employing nontargeted liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to water analysis

Forensic toxicology and environmental water analysis share the common interest and responsibility in ensuring comprehensive and reliable confirmation of drugs and pharmaceutical compounds in samples analyzed. Dealing with similar analytes, detection and identification techniques should be exchangeable between scientific disciplines. Herein, we demonstrate the successful adaption of a forensic toxicological screening workflow employing nontargeted LC/MS/MS under data-dependent acquisition control and subsequent database search to water analysis. The main modification involved processing of an increased sample volume with SPE (500 mL vs. 1-10 mL) to reach LODs in the low ng/L range. Tandem mass spectra acquired with a qTOF instrument were submitted to database search. The targeted data mining strategy was found to be sensitive and specific; automated search produced hardly any false results. To demonstrate the applicability of the adapted workflow to complex samples, 14 wastewater effluent samples collected on seven consecutive days at the local wastewater-treatment plant were analyzed. Of the 88,970 fragment ion mass spectra produced, 8.8% of spectra were successfully assigned to one of the 1040 reference compounds included in the database, and this enabled the identification of 51 compounds representing important illegal drugs, members of various pharmaceutical compound classes, and metabolites thereof.
Electrophoresis 2016 37:1085-1094
Tags: compound identification; liquid chromatography; tandem mass spectral library; tandem mass spectrometry; wastewater; inter-laboratory transferability; waste-water; emerging contaminants; reference library; spectral library; ion-trap; compound identification; search algorithm; database search; wiley registry;
PubMed: 26791338
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