Toward a more comprehensive approach for dissolved organic matter chemical characterization using an Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid mass spectrometer coupled with ion and liquid chromatography techniques




Bergmann, Daniela
Matarrita-Rodriguez, Jessie
Abdulla, Hussain


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American Chemical Society


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) represents one of the largest active organic carbon pools in the global carbon cycle. Although extensively studied, only <10% of DOM has been chemically characterized into individual dissolved compounds due to its molecular complexity. This study introduced a more comprehensive DOM characterization method by coupling both ion chromatography (IC) and liquid chromatography (LC) with high mass accuracy and resolution mass spectrometry. We presented a new on-the-fly mass calibration of the Orbitrap technique by utilizing the “lock mass” function in the Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid mass spectrometer (OT-FTMS), which assures high mass accuracy at every scan by a postcolumn introduction of internal labeled standards. With both IC and LC, tested unlabeled standards of amino acids, small peptides, and organic acids were consistently below 1.0 ppm mass error, giving the OT-FTMS the potential of reaching mass accuracy of the Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer. In addition to mass accuracy, a pooled quality control sample (QC) was used to increase reproducibility by applying systematic error removal using random forest (SERRF). Using an untargeted mass spectrometry approach, estuarine DOM samples were analyzed by OT-FTMS coupled to IC in negative mode and LC in positive mode detection to cover a wide range of highly cationic to highly anionic molecules. As a proof of concept, we focused on elucidating the structures of three distinct DOM compound classes with varied acidities and basicities. In UPLC-OT-FTMS, a total of 915 compounds were detected. We putatively elucidated 44 small peptides and 33 deaminated peptides of these compounds. With IC-OT-FTMS, a total of 1432 compounds were detected. We putatively elucidated 20 peptides, 268 deaminated peptides, and 188 organic acids. Except for five compounds, all putatively elucidated compounds were uniquely detected in their corresponding chromatography technique. These results highlight the need for combining these two techniques to provide a more comprehensive method for DOM characterization. Application of the combined IC and LC techniques is not limited to DOM chemical characterization. It can analyze other complex compound mixtures, such as metabolites, and anthropogenic pollutants, such as pesticides and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, in environmental and biological samples.



dissolved organic matter (DOM), ion chromatography (IC), liquid chromatography (LC), Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid mass spectrometer (OT-FTMS)


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (OCE1626494 and OCE-1756672 to H.A.), Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (Grant 910) to H.A., Welch Foundation to D.B., and Fulbright Laspau scholarship to J.M.-R.


CC BY 4.0 DEED Attribution 4.0 International


Daniela Bergmann, Jessie Matarrita-Rodríguez, and Hussain Abdulla Analytical Chemistry 2024 96 (9), 3744-3753 DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.3c02599