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Collision-induced dissociation of aflatoxins


S. Kéki, Department of Applied Chemistry, University of Debrecen, Egyetem tér1., H-4032 Debrecen, Hungary.




The aflatoxin mycotoxins are particularly hazardous to health when present in food. Therefore, from an analytical point of view, knowledge of their mass spectrometric properties is essential. The aim of the present study was to describe the collision-induced dissociation behavior of the four most common aflatoxins: B1, B2, G1 and G2.


Protonated aflatoxins were produced using atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) mass spectrometry (MS) combined with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). For the tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) experiments nitrogen was used as the collision gas and the collision energies were varied in the range of 9–44 eV (in the laboratory frame).


The major APCI-MS/MS fragmentations of protonated aflatoxins occurred at 30 eV collision energy. The main fragmentation channels were found to be the losses of a series of carbon monoxide molecules and loss of a methyl radical, leading to the formation of radical-type product ions. In addition, if the aflatoxin molecule contained an ether- or lactone-oxygen atom linked to a saturated carbon atom, loss of a water molecule was observed from the [M + H]+ ion, especially in the case of aflatoxins G1 and G2.


A relatively small modification in the structure of aflatoxins dramatically altered the fragmentation pathways and this was particularly true for aflatoxins B1 and B2. Due to the presence of a C = C double bond connected to the ether group in aflatoxin B1 no elimination of water was observed but, instead, formation of radical-type product ions occurred. Fragmentation of protonated aflatoxin B1 yielded the most abundant radical-type cations. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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