Analytical approaches for monitoring exposure to organophosphorus and carbamate agents through analysis of protein adducts

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23 Scopus citations


Appropriate treatment of a poisoned patient requires knowing the identity of the poison. This review summarizes the methods for identifying poisoning by organophosphorus and carbamate poisons. Mass spectrometry methods identify the poison from the adducts they form with proteins in blood. The most sensitive method uses potassium fluoride to release the organophosphorus agent from its covalent binding to serine 198 of human butyrylcholinesterase. The released poison is identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The drawback of this method is that it does not detect exposure to agents such as soman, because butyrylcholinesterase adducts with these agents age to a non-reactivatable form. A method that detects both aged and non-aged organophosphylated adducts as well as carbamate adducts is one that digests butyrylcholinesterase with a protease and analyzes the modified peptide by mass spectrometry. This method does not distinguish between poisons that have the same mass after reaction with butyrylcholinesterase - for example, between exposure to chlorpyrifos oxon and paraoxon. Albumin forms a stable, covalent bond with organophosphates on tyrosine 411. The rate of reaction with albumin is much slower than with butyrylcholinesterase, but albumin adducts persist for a longer time in the circulation; they do not age; and they do not release the organophosphate when a patient is treated with an oxime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-261
Number of pages16
JournalDrug Testing and Analysis
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Forensic analysis
  • Low-dose exposure
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Proteolysis
  • Retrospective analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Spectroscopy


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