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Analysis of breath by proton transfer reaction time of flight mass spectrometry in rats with steatohepatitis induced by high-fat diet


  • This article is part of the Journal of Mass Spectrometry special issue entitled “2nd MS Food Day” edited by Gianluca Giorgi.

Eugenio Aprea, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Via E. Mach, 38010 San Michele a/A, Italy. E-mail:


Breath testing has been largely used as a diagnostic tool, but the difficulties in data interpretation and sample collection have limited its application.

We developed a fast (< 20 s), on-line, non-invasive method for the collection and analysis of exhaled breath in awake rats based on proton transfer reaction time of flight mass spectrometry (PTR-ToF-MS) and applied it to investigate possible relationships between pathologies induced by dietary regime and breath composition.

As a case study, we investigated rats with dietary induced non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and modifications induced by coffee addition to the diet. We considered two different diets (standard and high fat) complemented with two different drinking possibilities (water or decaffeinated coffee) for a total of four groups with four rats each.

Several spectrometric peaks were reliable markers for both dietary fat content and coffee supplementation. The high resolution and accuracy of PTR-ToF-MS allowed the identification of related compounds such as methanol, dimethyl sulphide, dimethyl sulphone and ammonia.

In conclusion, the rapid and minimally invasive breath analysis of awake rats permitted the identification of markers related to diet and specific pathologic conditions and provided a useful tool for broader metabolic investigations. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.