Comparison of gas chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry for carbon stable-isotope analysis of carbohydrates

T.C.W. Moerdijk-Poortvliet, H. Schierbeek, M. Houtekamer, T. van Engeland, D. Derrien, L.J. Stal, H.T.S. Boschker

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Rationale: We compared gas chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/IRMS) and liquid chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC/IRMS) for the measurement of δ13C values in carbohydrates. Contrary to GC/IRMS, no derivatisation is needed for LC/IRMS analysis of carbohydrates. Hence, although LC/IRMS is expected to be more accurate and precise, no direct comparison has been reported.
Methods: GC/IRMS with the aldonitrile penta-acetate (ANPA) derivatisation method was compared with LC/IRMS without derivatisation. A large number of glucose standards and a variety of natural samples were analysed for five neutral carbohydrates at natural abundance as well as at 13C-enriched levels. Gas chromatography/chemical ionisation mass spectrometry (GC/CIMS) was applied to check for incomplete derivatisation of the carbohydrate, which would impair the accuracy of the GC/IRMS method.
Results: The LC/IRMS technique provided excellent precision (±0.08 ‰ and ±3.1 ‰ at natural abundance and enrichment levels, respectively) for the glucose standards and this technique proved to be superior to GC/IRMS (±0.62 ‰ and ±19.8 ‰ at natural abundance and enrichment levels, respectively). For GC/IRMS measurements the derivatisation correction and the conversion of carbohydrates into CO2 had a considerable effect on the measured δ13C values. However, we did not find any significant differences in the accuracy of the two techniques over the full range of natural δ13C abundances and 13C-labelled glucose. The difference in the performance of GC/IRMS and LC/IRMS diminished when the δ13C values were measured in natural samples, because the chromatographic performance and background correction became critical factors, particularly for LC/IRMS. The derivatisation of carbohydrates for the GC/IRMS method was complete.
Conclusions: Although both LC/IRMS and GC/IRMS are reliable techniques for compound-specific stable carbon isotope analysis of carbohydrates (provided that derivatisation is complete and the calibration requirements are met), LC/IRMS is the technique of choice. The reasons for this are the improved precision, simpler sample preparation, and straightforward isotopic calibration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1205-1214
JournalRapid communications in mass spectrometry
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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