Argentination: A Silver Bullet for Cannabinoid Separation by Differential Mobility Spectrometry

journal contribution

posted on 2023-05-24, 17:07 authored by Christian Ieritano, Patrick Thomas, W. Scott Hopkins

As the legality of cannabis continues
to evolve globally, there
is a growing demand for methods that can accurately quantitate cannabinoids
found in commercial products. However, the isobaric nature of many
cannabinoids, along with variations in extraction methods and product
formulations, makes cannabinoid quantitation by mass spectrometry
(MS) challenging. Here, we demonstrate that differential mobility
spectrometry (DMS) and tandem-MS can distinguish a set of seven cannabinoids,
five of which are isobaric: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol
9-THC), Δ8-THC, exo-THC, cannabidiol,
cannabichromene, cannabinol, and cannabigerol. Analytes were detected
as argentinated species ([M + Ag]+), which, when subjected
to collision-induced dissociation, led to the unexpected discovery
that argentination promotes distinct fragmentation patterns for each
cannabinoid. The unique fragment ions formed were rationalized by
discerning fragmentation mechanisms that follow each cannabinoid’s
MS3 behavior. The differing fragmentation behaviors between
species suggest that argentination can distinguish cannabinoids by
tandem-MS, although not quantitatively as some cannabinoids produce
small amounts of a fragment ion that is isobaric with the major fragment
generated by another cannabinoid. By adding DMS to the tandem-MS workflow,
it becomes possible to resolve each cannabinoid in a pure N2 environment by deconvoluting the contribution of each cannabinoid
to a specific fragmentation channel. To this end, we used DMS in conjunction
with a multiple reaction monitoring workflow to assess cannabinoid
levels in two cannabis extracts. Our methodology exhibited excellent
accuracy, limits of detection (10–20 ppb depending on the cannabinoid),
and linearity during quantitation by standard addition (R2 > 0.99).

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