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Anal Chem. 2005 Mar 15;77(6):1545-55.

Forensic identification of neat ricin and of ricin from crude castor bean extracts by mass spectrometry.

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  • 1Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI NBC, SE90182 UmeĆ„, Sweden. sten-ake.fredriksson@foi.se


The protein toxin ricin, which originates from the seeds of Ricinus communis plants, has been the subject of increased interest, due to its potential terrorist use. Exceptionally, this toxin is also subject to the Chemical Weapons Convention. In this paper, it is shown that mass spectrometry can be used to unambiguously verify the presence of ricin in crude toxin preparations. It is demonstrated that MALDI MS can be used for screening, either by direct analysis or by trypsin digestion and peptide mapping. Purified ricin from several varieties of R. communis was characterized by LC-ES MS(/MS). A crude ricin preparation from a single bean was similarly characterized. An LC method was set up with product ion MS/MS detection of selected marker peptides specific for ricin: T5, T7, T11, T12, and T13 from the A-chain and T3, T5, T14, T19, and T20 from the B-chain. This method was then used to unambiguously identify ricin in a crude preparation of ricin. The MALDI MS molecular weight analysis and the marker peptides LC-ES MS/MS analysis give a forensic level of identification of ricin when combined with activity testing.

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