Development of a method to quantitate nematode pheromone for study of small-molecule metabolism in Caenorhabditis elegans

Anal Chem. 2013 Mar 5;85(5):2681-8. doi: 10.1021/ac4001964. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


Pheromones produced by Caenorhabditis elegans are considered key regulators of development, mating, and social behaviors in this organism. Here, we present a rapid mass spectrometry-based method (PheroQu) for absolute quantitation of nematode pheromones (e.g., daumone 1, 2, and 3) both in C. elegans worm bodies (as few as 20 worms) and in liquid culture medium. Pheromones were separated by ultra performance liquid chromatography and monitored by a positive electrospray ionization detector in the multiple-reaction monitoring mode. The daf-22 mutant worms were used as surrogate matrix for calibration, and stable deuterated isotope-containing pheromone was used as internal standard for measuring changes in pheromones in N2 wild-type and other strains under different growth conditions. The worm-body pheromones were extracted by acidified acetonitrile solvent, and the secreted pheromones were extracted from culture medium with solid-phase extraction cartridges. The run time was achieved in less than 2 min. The method was validated for specificity, linearity, accuracy, precision, recovery, and stability. The assay was linear over an amount range of 2-250 fmol, and the limit of quantitation was 2 fmol amounts for daumone 1, 2, and 3 in both worm bodies and culture medium. With the PheroQu method, we were able to identify the location of pheromone biosynthesis and determine the changes in different pheromone types synthesized, according to developmental stages and aging process. This method, which is simple, rapid, sensitive, and specific, will be useful for the study of small-molecule metabolism during developmental stages of C. elegans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Culture Media / metabolism
  • Limit of Detection
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mutation
  • Pheromones / biosynthesis
  • Pheromones / chemistry*
  • Pheromones / isolation & purification
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Culture Media
  • Pheromones