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J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Nov 28;55(24):9769-75. Epub 2007 Oct 30.

Mass spectrometric determination of the predominant adrenergic protoalkaloids in bitter orange (Citrus aurantium).

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Analytical Chemistry Division, Stop 8392, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 100 Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899-8392, USA.


The predominant adrenergic protoalkaloid found in the peel and fruit of bitter orange, Citrus aurantium, is synephrine. Synephrine is reputed to have thermogenic properties and is used as a dietary supplement to enhance energy and promote weight loss. However, there exists some concern that the consumption of dietary supplements containing synephrine or similar protoalkaloids may contribute to adverse cardiovascular events. This study developed and validated a positive-ion mode liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) method for the quantitative determination of the major (synephrine) and minor (tyramine, N-methyltyramine, octopamine, and hordenine) adrenergic protoalkaloids in a suite of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) bitter orange Standard Reference Materials (SRMs): SRM 3258 Bitter Orange Fruit, SRM 3259 Bitter Orange Extract, and SRM 3260 Bitter Orange Solid Oral Dosage Form. The limit of quantitation (LOQ) for all protoalkaloids is approximately 1 pg on-column, except for octopamine (20 pg on-column). Additionally, the method has a linear dynamic range of > or =3 orders of magnitude for all of the protoalkaloids. Individual, as well as "total", protoalkaloid levels (milligrams per kilogram) in the NIST SRMs were determined and compared to the levels measured by an independent liquid chromatography/fluorescence detection (LC/FD) method. Satisfactory concordance between the LC/MS/MS and LC/FD protoalkaloid measurements was demonstrated. LC/MS/MS analysis of the protoalkaloids in the SRMs resulted in mean measurement imprecision levels of < or =10% coefficient of variation (% CV).

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