American Chemical Society
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Separation and Characterization of Synthetic Cannabinoid Metabolite Isomers Using SLIM High-Resolution Ion Mobility-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (HRIM-MS/MS)

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-16, 07:44 authored by Ralph Aderorho, Shadrack Wilson Lucas, Christopher D. Chouinard
Synthetic cannabinoids, a subclass of new psychoactive substances (NPS), are laboratory-made substances that are chemically similar to those found naturally in the cannabis plant. Many of these substances are illicitly manufactured and have been associated with severe health problems, prompting a need to develop analytical methods capable of characterizing both known and previously undetected compounds. This work focuses on a novel Structures for Lossless Ion Manipulations (SLIM) IM-MS approach to the differentiation and structural characterization of synthetic cannabinoid metabolites, specifically MDA-19/BUTINACA, JWH-018, and JWH-250 isomer groups. These different compound classes are structurally very similar, differing only in the position of one or a few functional groups; this yielded similarity in measured collision cross section (CCS) values. However, the high resolution of SLIM IM provided adequate separation of many of these isomers, such as sodiated JWH-250 metabolites N-4-OH, N-5-OH, and 5-OH, which displayed CCS of 187.5, 182.5, and 202.3 Å2, respectively. In challenging cases where baseline separation was precluded due to nearly identical CCS, such as for JWH-018 isomers, simple derivatization by dansyl chloride selectively reacted with the 6-OH compound to provide differentiation of all isomers using a combination of CCS and m/z. Finally, the opportunity to use this method for structural elucidation of unknowns was demonstrated by using SLIM IM mobility-aligned MS/MS fragmentation. Different MDA-19/BUTINACA isomers were first mobility separated and could then be individually activated, yielding unique fragments for both targeted identification and structural determination. Overall, the described SLIM IM-MS/MS workflow provides significant potential as a rapid screening tool for the characterization of emerging NPS such as synthetic cannabinoids and their metabolites.