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Metabolomics. 2011 Mar;7(1):15-24. Epub 2010 Jul 18.

Ultra-fast searching assists in evaluating sub-ppm mass accuracy enhancement in U-HPLC/Orbitrap MS data.

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  • 1RIKILT, Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 230, 6700AE Wageningen, The Netherlands.


A strategy, detailed methodology description and software are given with which the mass accuracy of U-HPLC-Orbitrap data (resolving power 50,000 FWHM) can be enhanced by an order of magnitude to sub-ppm levels. After mass accuracy enhancement all 211 reference masses have mass errors within 0.5 ppm; only 14 of these are outside the 0.2 ppm error margin. Further demonstration of mass accuracy enhancement is shown on a pre-concentrated urine sample in which evidence for 89 (342 ions) potential hydroxylated and glucuronated DHEA-metabolites is found. Although most DHEA metabolites have low-intensity mass signals, only 11 out of 342 are outside the ±1 ppm error envelop; 272 mass signals have errors below 0.5 ppm (142 below 0.2 ppm). The methodology consists of: (a) a multiple internal lock correction (here ten masses; no identity of internal lock masses is required) to avoid suppression problems of a single internal lock mass as well as to increase lock precision, (b) a multiple external mass correction (here 211 masses) to correct for calibration errors, (c) intensity dependant mass correction, (d) file averaging. The strategy is supported by ultra-fast file searching of baseline corrected, noise-reduced metAlign output. The output and efficiency of ultra-fast searching is essential in obtaining the required information to visualize the distribution of mass errors and isotope ratio deviations as a function of mass and intensity. ELECTRONIC SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11306-010-0230-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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