A complex matrix characterization approach, applied to cigarette smoke, that integrates multiple analytical methods and compound identification strategies for non‐targeted liquid chromatography with high‐resolution mass spectrometry


Authored by  D Arndt, C Wachsmuth, C Buchholz, M Bentley

Published in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry    

Abstract

Rationale
For the characterization of the chemical composition of complex matrices such as tobacco smoke, containing more than 6000 constituents, several analytical approaches have to be combined to increase compound coverage across the chemical space. Furthermore, the identification of unknown molecules requiring the implementation of additional confirmatory tools in the absence of reference standards, such as tandem mass spectrometry spectra comparisons and in silico prediction of mass spectra, is a major bottleneck.

Methods
We applied a combination of four chromatographic/ionization techniques (reversed‐phase (RP) – heated electrospray ionization (HESI) in both positive (+) and negative (−) modes, RP – atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) in positive mode, and hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) – HESI positive) using a Thermo Q Exactive™ liquid chromatography/high‐resolution accurate mass spectrometry (LC/HRAM‐MS) platform for the analysis of 3R4F‐derived smoke. Compound identification was performed by using mass spectral libraries and in silico predicted fragments from multiple integrated databases.

Results
A total of 331 compounds with semi‐quantitative estimates ≥100 ng per cigarette were identified, which were distributed within the known chemical space of tobacco smoke. The integration of multiple LC/HRAM‐MS‐based chromatographic/ionization approaches combined with complementary compound identification strategies was key for maximizing the number of amenable compounds and for strengthening the level of identification confidence. A total of 50 novel compounds were identified as being present in tobacco smoke. In the absence of reference MS2 spectra, in silico MS2 spectra prediction gave a good indication for compound class and was used as an additional confirmatory tool for our integrated non‐targeted screening (NTS) approach.

Conclusions
This study presents a powerful chemical characterization approach that has been successfully applied for the identification of novel compounds in cigarette smoke. We believe that this innovative approach has general applicability and a huge potential benefit for the analysis of any complex matrices.