HPLC/tandem electrospray mass spectrometry for the determination of Sub-ppb levels of Pacific and Caribbean ciguatoxins in crude extracts of fish

Anal Chem. 1999 Jan 1;71(1):247-50. doi: 10.1021/ac980598h.


Ciguatera is a significant food-borne disease caused by potent polyether toxins (ciguatoxins) which accumulate in the flesh of ciguateric reef fish at risk levels > 0.1 ppb for Pacific ciguatoxins. Research on ciguatera has been severely hindered by the lack of analytical methods that detect and characterize low levels of ciguatoxin in crude extracts of fish. Here we report a new procedure for ciguatoxin analysis based on gradient reversed-phase HPLC/tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS/MS). The method gave a linear response to pure Pacific and Caribbean ciguatoxins (P-CTX-1 and C-CTX-1) and the structurally related brevetoxin (PbTx-2) spiked into crude extracts of fish. Levels equivalent to 40 ppt P-CTX-1, 100 ppt C-CTX-1, and 200 ppt PbTx-2 in fish flesh could be detected by HPLC/MS/MS. Using P-CTX-1 as an internal standard, the analysis of extracts of 30 ciguateric fish from the Caribbean Sea (8 toxic, 12 borderline, and 10 nontoxic by mouse bioassay) confirmed the reliability of the method and allowed an estimated risk level of > 0.25 ppb C-CTX-1 to be established. HPLC/MS/MS provides a sensitive analytical approach, not previously available, for the determination of Pacific and Caribbean ciguatoxins at sub-ppb levels in fish flesh.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Ciguatoxins / analysis*
  • Fishes / metabolism*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mice


  • Ciguatoxins