Microfluidic Separation Coupled to Mass Spectrometry for Quantification of Peanut Allergens in a Complex Food Matrix

Rebekah L. Sayers, Lee A. Gethings, Victoria Lee, Anuradha Balasundaram, Philip E. Johnson, Justin A. Marsh, Antonietta Wallace, Helen Brown, Adrian Rogers, James I. Langridge, E. N.Clare Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Peanut is an important food allergen, but it cannot currently be reliably detected and quantified in processed foods at low levels. A level of 3 mg protein/kg is increasingly being used as a reference dose above which precautionary allergen labeling is applied to food products. Two exemplar matrices (chocolate dessert and chocolate bar) were prepared and incurred with 0, 3, 10, or 50 mg/kg peanut protein using a commercially available lightly roasted peanut flour ingredient. After simple buffer extraction employing an acid-labile detergent, multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) experiments were used to assess matrix effects on the detection of a set of seven peptide targets derived from peanut allergens using either conventional or microfluidic chromatographic separation prior to mass spectrometry. Microfluidic separation provided greater sensitivity and increased ionization efficiency at low levels. Individual monitored transitions were detected in consistent ratios across the dilution series, independent of matrix. The peanut protein content of each sample was then determined using ELISA and the optimized MRM method. Although other peptide targets were detected with three transitions at the 50 mg/kg peanut protein level in both matrices, only Arah2(Q6PSU2)147-155 could be quantified reliably and only in the chocolate dessert at 10 mg/kg peanut protein. Recoveries were consistent with ELISA analysis returning around 30-50% of the incurred dose. MS coupled with microfluidic separation shows great promise as a complementary analytical tool for allergen detection and quantification in complex foods using a simple extraction methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-655
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of proteome research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2018


  • allergen
  • food
  • mass spectrometry
  • microfluidic separation
  • peanut
  • quantification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry


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