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Journal Article


Richter A, Siegert M, Thiermann H, John H. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2021; ePub(ePub): ePub.


(Copyright © 2021, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)






Sulfur mustard (SM) is a banned chemical warfare agent recently used in the Syrian Arab Republic conflict causing erythema and blisters characterized by complicated and delayed wound healing. For medical and legal reasons, the proof of exposure to SM is of high toxicological and forensic relevance. SM reacts with endogenous human serum albumin (HSA adducts) alkylating the thiol group of the cysteine residue C(34), thus causing the addition of the hydroxyethylthioethyl (HETE) moiety. Following proteolysis with pronase, the biomarker dipeptide C(-HETE)P is produced. To expand the possibilities for verification of exposure, we herein introduce a novel biomarker produced from that alkylated dipeptide by derivatization with propionic anhydride inducing the selective propionylation of the N-terminus yielding PA-C(-HETE)P. Quantitative derivatization is carried out at room temperature in aqueous buffer within 10 s. The biomarker was found to be stable in the autosampler at 15 °C for at least 24 h, thus documenting its suitability even for larger sets of samples. Selective and sensitive detection is done by micro liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem-mass spectrometry (μLC-ESI MS/MS) operating in the selected reaction monitoring (SRM) mode detecting product ions of the single protonated PA-C(-HETE)P (m/z 379.1) at m/z 116.1, m/z 137.0, and m/z 105.0. The lower limit of detection corresponds to 32 nM SM in plasma in vitro and the limit of identification to 160 nM. The applicability to real exposure scenarios was proven by analyzing samples from the Middle East confirming poisoning with SM.

Language: en


Biomarker; Chemical warfare agent; HETE moiety; Propionic anhydride; Protein adduct; Verification


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