Analytical chemistry

Identification of pesticide transformation products in food by liquid chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry via "fragmentation-degradation" relationships.

PMID 17194155


The identification of transformation products of pesticides in foodstuffs is a crucial task difficult to tackle, due to the lack of standards and scarce information available. In this work, we describe a methodology for the identification and structural elucidation of pesticide transformation products in food. The proposed strategy is based on the use of liquid chromatography electrospray time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC/TOFMS): accurate mass measurements of (molecule and fragment) ions of interest are used in order to establish relationships between fragmentation of the parent pesticides in the instrument (in-source CID fragmentation) and possible degradation products of these pesticides in food. Examples of this strategy showing the potential of LC/TOFMS to determine unknown pesticides in food are described in two different real samples, suggesting that pesticides often are transformed into degradation products in the same fashion that they are fragmented in the instrument. Using the proposed approach and without using standards a priori, based solely on accurate mass measurements of ions and "fragmentation-degradation" relationships, we have identified two parent pesticides (amitraz and malathion) along with six degradation products, m/z 253 (N,N'-bisdimethylphenylformamidine), 163 (N-2,4-dimethylphenyl-N-methyl formamidine), 150 (2,4-dimethylformamidine), and 122 (2,4-dimethylaniline) from amitraz, and m/z 317 and 303, due to ether hydrolysis of methyl and ethyl groups from malathion. Structures for these species were proposed, and the potential of the proposed approach was critically discussed.

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