Development and Application of Extraction Methods for LC-MS Quantification of Microcystins in Liver Tissue

Toxins (Basel). 2020 Apr 19;12(4):263. doi: 10.3390/toxins12040263.


A method was developed to extract and quantify microcystins (MCs) from mouse liver with limits of quantification (LOQs) lower than previously reported. MCs were extracted from 40-mg liver samples using 85:15 (v:v) CH3CN:H2O containing 200 mM ZnSO4 and 1% formic acid. Solid-phase extraction with a C18 cartridge was used for sample cleanup. MCs were detected and quantified using HPLC-orbitrap-MS with simultaneous MS/MS detection of the 135.08 m/z fragment from the conserved Adda amino acid for structural confirmation. The method was used to extract six MCs (MC-LR, MC-RR, MC-YR, MC-LA, MC-LF, and MC-LW) from spiked liver tissue and the MC-LR cysteine adduct (MC-LR-Cys) created by the glutathione detoxification pathway. Matrix-matched internal standard calibration curves were constructed for each MC (R2 ≥ 0.993), with LOQs between 0.25 ng per g of liver tissue (ng/g) and 0.75 ng/g for MC-LR, MC-RR, MC-YR, MC-LA, and MC-LR-Cys, and 2.5 ng/g for MC-LF and MC-LW. The protocol was applied to extract and quantify MC-LR and MC-LR-Cys from the liver of mice that had been gavaged with 50 µg or 100 µg of MC-LR per kg bodyweight and were euthanized 2 h, 4 h, or 48 h after final gavage. C57Bl/6J (wild type, control) and Leprdb/J (experiment) mice were used as a model to study non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The Leprdb/J mice were relatively inefficient in metabolizing MC-LR into MC-LR-Cys, which is an important defense mechanism against MC-LR exposure. Trends were also observed as a function of MC-LR gavage amount and time between final MC-LR gavage and euthanasia/organ harvest.

Keywords: liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry; liver; microcystins; quantification; solid-phase extraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microcystins / analysis*
  • Microcystins / pharmacokinetics
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Microcystins