Development and application of liquid chromatography coupled to isotope ratio mass spectrometry

Stable isotope analysis has found widespread applications in various disciplines such as archaeology, geochemistry, biology, food authenticity, and forensic science. Coupling chromatography to isotope ratio mass spectrometry for compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) is a trend, as it provides several advantages over bulk isotope analysis, e.g., relatively simple sample preparation, the ability to measure individual compounds in a complex mixture in one run, and the reduced sample size required for precise isotope analysis. Gas chromatography coupled to isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/IRMS) has been well-established for compound-specific isotope analysis of volatile organic compounds within the last two decades. However, an interface combining liquid chromatography with isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC/IRMS) was not commercially available until 2004. The current design of the interface requires using a carbon-free eluent in chromatographic separation. This requirement limits the application of the most frequently used reversed-phase liquid chromatography in CSIA, because the elution strength of water at room temperature is too low to serve as mobile phase in reversed-phase separations. In order to increase the elution strength of water, we propose using high temperature water for chromatographic elution. The polarity of water decreases with an increase of temperature, yielding increased elution strength in reversed-phase columns. Therefore, high temperature water can be used as eluent instead of organic solvent for combining reversed-phase liquid chromatography with isotope ratio mass spectrometry (RPLC/IRMS). Additionally, temperature gradients can replace organic solvent gradients to increase chromatographic resolution. This is very important for LC/IRMS analysis, as precise isotope analysis requires baseline separation of analytes. In this thesis, high-temperature reversed-phase liquid chromatography was coupled to, and for the first time carefully evaluated for, isotope ratio mass spectrometry (HT-RPLC/IRMS). The effect of column bleed on measured isotope ratios was investigated at high temperature in isothermal mode and in temperature gradient mode. Four different revised-phase columns were proven to be compatible with IRMS for compound-specific isotope analysis. The developed method was applied to measure caffeine in different drinks. Naturally occurring and industrially synthesized caffeine was observed to have two distinct δ13C-ranges, from ‒25 to ‒32‰ and from ‒33 to ‒38‰, respectively. On the basis of two different δ13C-ranges, four out of 38 drinks were suspected of being mislabelled due to added but non-labelled synthetic caffeine with δ13C-values falling in the range of synthetic caffeine. Furthermore, HTLC/IRMS was applied to measure non-polar and water-insoluble compounds, here steroids, for the first time. The use of steroid isotope analysis for pharmaceutical product control by HTLC/IRMS was demonstrated. The major advantage is that steroids can be analysed without derivatization. By overcoming current limitations in sample preparation, the method might become applicable for doping control purposes. Another potential application of LC/IRMS in doping control is the isotope analysis of 5-Aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide (AICAR), a gene doping drug. Here, the first method for compound-specific isotope analysis of AICAR has been presented. The endogenous AICAR in urine and industrially synthesized AICAR were observed to have significantly different isotope signature. It shows that isotope analysis of LC/IRMS could potentially be used for the detection of AICAR abuse. The methodological developments presented in the thesis will lead to new applications of LC/IRMS.


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