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Determination of Zn-citrate in human milk by CIM monolithic chromatography with atomic and mass spectrometry detection

R. Milačič, D. Ajlec, T. Zuliani, D. Žigon, J. Ščančar

Talanta 101 (2012) 203-210

In human milk zinc (Zn) is bound to proteins and low molecular mass (LMM) ligands. Numerous investigations demonstrated that Zn bioavailability in human milk is for infant much higher than in cow's milk. It was presumed that in the LMM human milk fraction highly bioavailable Zn-citrate prevails. However, literature data are controversial regarding the amount of Zn-citrate in human milk since analytical procedures reported were not quantitative. So, complex investigation was carried out to develop analytical method for quantitative determination of this biologically important molecule. Studies were performed within the pH range 5–7 by the use of synthetic solutions of Zn-citrate prepared in HEPES, MOPS and MES buffers. Zn-citrate was separated on weak anion-exchange convective interaction media (CIM) diethylaminoethyl (DEAE) monolithic chromatographic column using NH4NO3 as an eluent. Separated Zn species were determined by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS) or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Quantitative separation of Zn-citrate complexes ([Zn(Cit)]- and [Zn(Cit)2]4-; column recoveries 94–102%) and good repeatability and reproducibility of results with relative standard deviation (RSD±3.0%) were obtained. In fractions under the chromatographic peaks Zn-binding ligand was identified by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS-MS). Limits of detection (LOD) for determination of Zn-citrate species by CIM DEAE-FAAS and CIM DEAE-ICP-MS were 0.01 μg Zn mL-1 and 0.0005 μg Zn mL-1, respectively. Both techniques were sensitive enough for quantification of Zn-citrate in human milk. Results demonstrated that about 23% of total Zn was present in the LMM milk fraction and that LMM-Zn corresponded to Zn-citrate. The developed speciation method represents a reliable analytical tool for investigation of the percentage and the amount of Zn-citrate in human milk.

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