In situ calibration of Direct Analysis in Real Time-mass spectrometry for direct quantification: Urine excretion rate index creatinine as an example.Talanta 2019; 201:134-142T
Ambient ionization in open environment brings a capability of a coupled mass spectrometry to detect target molecules in situ. However, it is limited to qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis. By coupling of an ambient ionization-based Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) with high-resolution quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (QTOF/MS), we observe that, in one-chemical system, the target molecule displays a non-linear response in MS signal vs concentration, accompanying with large variation in MS signal, suggesting two obstacles for quantification to be overcome. Surprisingly, in a two-chemical system, we observe an apparent suppression effect. We prove that, due to this observed suppression effect, a fluctuant response in the MS signal of the stable isotope-labeled analogue can immediately reflect the change in the analyte concentration and ionization efficiency. For example, by taking advantage of this effect, even the analyte of different concentrations despairingly displayed similar signals would be accurately calibrated through the suppression of the internal stable isotope standard. This puts an important foundation on accurate and linear quantitation of analytes in complex matrix using DART-MS assay. Moreover, we for the first time demonstrate an application of in situ calibration of DART-MS for direct and accurate quantification of target molecule (creatinine) in highly complex samples (human urine) without any pre-separation. The quantification is also validated using HPLC-UV analysis (n = 38). At last, we show that stable isotope-labeled-creatinine (m/z 117.0850 amu) can be used for simultaneous in situ calibration of some other urinary metabolites with a mass/charge ratio varying from 120.069 amu to 333.125 amu.