Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (2007), 389, 6, 1901--1907 DOI: 10.1007/s00216-007-1595-2
A liquid chromatography–electrospray-tandem mass spectrometry (LC–ESI-MS–MS) method based on the detection of biomarker peptides from allergenic proteins was devised for confirming and quantifying peanut allergens in foods. Peptides obtained from tryptic digestion of Ara h 2 and Ara h 3/4 proteins were identified and characterized by LC–MS and LC–MS–MS with a quadrupole-time of flight mass analyzer. Four peptides were chosen and investigated as biomarkers taking into account their selectivity, the absence of missed cleavages, the uniform distribution in the Ara h 2 and Ara h 3/4 protein isoforms together with their spectral features under ESI-MS–MS conditions, and good repeatability of LC retention time. Because of the different expression levels, the selection of two different allergenic proteins was proved to be useful in the identification and univocal confirmation of the presence of peanuts in foodstuffs. Using rice crispy and chocolate-based snacks as model food matrix, an LC–MS–MS method with triple quadrupole mass analyzer allowed good detection limits to be obtained for Ara h2 (5 mug protein g−1 matrix) and Ara h3/4 (1 mug protein g−1 matrix). Linearity of the method was established in the 10–200 mug g−1 range of peanut proteins in the food matrix investigated. Method selectivity was demonstrated by analyzing tree nuts (almonds, pecan nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts) and food ingredients such as milk, soy beans, chocolate, cornflakes, and rice crispy.