Detection and Quantitative Analysis of the Non-cytotoxic allo-Tenuazonic Acid in Tomato Products by Stable Isotope Dilution HPLC-MS/MS

Tenuazonic acid (1) is a mycotoxin produced mainly by fungi of the genus Alternaria. It occurs in a variety of agricultural products. allo-Tenuazonic acid (2) is an isomer of 1 that is not chromatographically separated from 1 in most analytical methods. Therefore, both isomers are quantitated as a sum parameter. In this study a QuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged and safe) based stable isotope dilution HPLC-MS/MS method including the chromatographic separation of both isomers was developed and applied to 20 tomato products from the German market. All products showed contamination with both toxins. 1 was found in a range from 5.3 ± 0.1 to 550 ± 15 μg/kg (average = 120 μg/kg) and 2 in a range from 1.5 ± 0.4– to 270 ± 0.8 μg/kg (average = 58 μg/kg). 2 represents 7.0–44% of the sum of both isomers (average = 29%). This is the first reported occurrence of 2 in food samples. To evaluate and compare the cytotoxicities of 1 and 2, both compounds were isolated from a synthetic racemic mixture. 1 showed moderate cytotoxic effects on HT-29 cells starting at 100 μM, whereas 2 exhibited no activity. 2 was not produced in liquid cultures of Alternaria alternata in yeast extract sucrose (YES) medium, but could be detected in small amounts in tomato puree inoculated with the fungus.