This work reports the use of reverse-phase liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ion trap (QIT) mass spectrometry for the analysis of the metabolome in rat urine. An injection of 20 microL of urine into the chromatographic system is followed by a slow gradient elution and mass spectrometric detection in the scanning mode from m/z 100-1000 in both positive and negative modes. Over a time scale of 90 min, 30 and 20 resolved peaks were observed in the positive and the negative modes, respectively, corresponding to the presence of a few hundred m/z ratios. By using a QIT analyzer, data-dependent tandem mass spectrometry of selected m/z ratios identified several compounds in rat urine and characterized various chemical families, including carboxylic acids, amines, sulfated compounds, glucuronides and glycosides, by the observation of characteristic fragment ions or neutral losses. The method has been applied to the investigation of the chronic toxicity of heavy metals in rat urine. A few tens of m/z ratios, differing in intensity more than threefold from control values, were observed in both positive and negative modes. The time variations for some selected ions suggest that LC/ESI-MS could allow selective characterization of biomarkers in response to specific toxic compounds.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.