Development and application of a comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry method for the analysis of l-β-methylamino-alanine in human tissue
l-Î²-Methylamino-alanine (BMAA) has been proposed as a worldwide contributor to neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson dementia complex (PDC) of Guam and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recent conflicting reports of the presence of this amino acid in human brain from patients affected by these diseases have made it necessary to develop methods that provide unambiguous detection in complex samples. Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with time-of-flight-mass-spectrometry analysis (GC × GC–TOFMS) followed by a targeted Parallel Factor Analysis (PARAFAC) deconvolution method has been used recently in metabolomic investigations to separate, identify, and quantify components of complex biological specimens. We have extended and applied this methodology to the toxicological problem of detecting BMAA in extracts of brain tissue. Our results show that BMAA can be isolated from closely eluting compounds and detected in trace amounts in extracts of brain tissue spiked with low levels of this analyte, ranging from 2.5 ppb to 50 ppb, with a limit of detection (LOD) of 0.7 ppb. This new method was sufficiently sensitive to detect BMAA in cerebral extracts of mice fed BMAA. This optimized approach was then applied to analyze tissue from humans; however, no BMAA was detected in the brain extracts from controls or patients with PDC or AD. Our results demonstrate the application of multidimensional chromatography–mass spectrometry methods and computational deconvolution analysis to the problem of detecting trace amounts of a potential toxin in brain extracts from mice and humans.