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  • Author: Rainer Cramer x
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In recent years, mass spectrometry (MS) has been applied to clinical microbial biotyping, exploiting the speed of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) in recording microbe-specific MS profiles. More recently, liquid atmospheric pressure (AP) MALDI has been shown to produce extremely stable ion flux from homogenous samples and ‘electrospray ionization (ESI)-like’ multiply charged ions for larger biomolecules, whilst maintaining the benefits of traditional MALDI including high tolerance to contaminants, low analyte consumption and rapid analysis. These and other advantages of liquid AP-MALDI MS have been explored in this study to investigate its potential in microbial biotyping.


Genetically diverse bacterial strains were analyzed using liquid AP-MALDI MS, including clinically relevant species such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Bacterial cultures were subjected to a simple and fast extraction protocol using ethanol and formic acid. Extracts were spotted with a liquid support matrix (LSM) and analyzed using a Synapt G2-Si mass spectrometer with an in-house built AP-MALDI source.


Each species produces a unique lipid profile in the m/z range of 400–1100, allowing species discrimination. Traditional (solid) MALDI MS produced spectra containing a high abundance of matrix-related clusters and an absence of lipid peaks. The MS profiles of the bacterial species tested form distinct clusters using principle component analysis (PCA) with a classification accuracy of 98.63% using a PCA-based prediction model.


Liquid AP-MALDI MS profiles can be sufficient to distinguish clinically relevant bacterial pathogens and other bacteria, based on their unique lipid profiles. The analysis of the lipid MS profiles is typically excluded from commercial instruments approved for clinical diagnostics.



B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a 32 amino acid cardiac hormone routinely measured by immunoassays to diagnose heart failure. While it is reported that immunoassay results can vary up to 45%, no attempt of standardization and/or harmonization through the development of certified reference materials (CRMs) or reference measurement procedures (RMPs) has yet been carried out.


B-type natriuretic peptide primary calibrator was quantified traceably to the International System of Units (SI) by both amino acid analysis and tryptic digestion. A method for the stabilization of BNP in plasma followed by protein precipitation, solid phase extraction (SPE) and liquid chromatography (LC) mass spectrometry (MS) was then developed and validated for the quantification of BNP at clinically relevant concentrations (15–150 fmol/g).


The candidate reference method was applied to the quantification of BNP in a number of samples from the UK NEQAS Cardiac Markers Scheme to demonstrate its applicability to generate reference values and to preliminary evaluate the commutability of a potential CRM. The results from the reference method were consistently lower than the immunoassay results and discrepancy between the immunoassays was observed confirming previous data.


The application of the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method to the UK NEQAS samples and the correlation of the results with the immunoassay results shows the potential of the method to support external quality assessment schemes, to improve understanding of the bias of the assays and to establish RMPs for BNP measurements. Furthermore, the method has the potential to be multiplexed for monitoring circulating truncated forms of BNP.