Analysis of amino acid 13C abundance from human and faunal bone collagen using liquid chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry.
McCullagh JSO., Juchelka D., Hedges REM.
The scope of compound-specific stable isotope analysis has recently been increased with the development of the LC IsoLink which interfaces high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) to provide online LC/IRMS. This enables isotopic measurement of non-volatile compounds previously not amenable to compound-specific analysis or requiring substantial modification for gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/C/IRMS), which results in reduced precision. Amino acids are an example of such compounds. We present a new chromatographic method for the HPLC separation of underivatized amino acids using an acidic, aqueous mobile phase in conjunction with a mixed-mode stationary phase that can be interfaced with the LC IsoLink for compound-specific delta13C analysis. The method utilizes a reversed-phase Primesep-A column with embedded, ionizable, functional groups providing the capability for ion-exchange and hydrophobic interactions. Baseline separation of 15 amino acids and their carbon isotope values are reported with an average standard deviation of 0.18 per thousand (n = 6). In addition delta13C values of 18 amino acids are determined from modern protein and archaeological bone collagen hydrolysates, demonstrating the potential of this method for compound-specific applications in a number of fields including metabolic, ecological and palaeodietary studies.