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Open Access "Is there anybody else out there?" – First Insights from a Suspect Screening for Phytotoxins in Surface Water

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To protect themselves, plants can produce toxic secondary metabolites (phytotoxins) that appear with widely varying structures and negative effects. These phytotoxins often show similar properties as known aquatic micropollutants in terms of mobility, persistence, toxicity, and possibly also ecotoxicity. However, their occurrence in surface waters remains largely unknown, which is also due to unknown ability of available screening approaches to detect them. Therefore, we performed a target and suspect screening based on a persistence-mobility prioritization for phytotoxins in small Swiss creeks using high resolution mass spectrometry. In total, three of 26 targets were detected, three of 78 suspects tentatively identified, and six suspects fully confirmed by reference standards. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first time that three different plant secondary metabolite classes are detected in the same surface water sample. Estrogenic isoflavones were detected at 73% of the sites with formononetin as main toxin, which is in agreement with previous studies. Furthermore, pyrrolizidine alkaloids and the indole alkaloid gramine were detected. Especially pyrrolizidine alkaloids might be critical due to their production by various plants including the invasive Senecio inaequidens, and their known importance in food and feed safety. Based on these first screening results, different phytotoxin classes should be assessed for their ecotoxicological effects and considered in future water monitoring.
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Keywords: ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYTICS; ISOFLAVONES; NATURAL TOXINS; PYRROLIZIDINE ALKALOIDS; SUSPECT SCREENING

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Environmental Analytics, Agroscope, Reckenholzstrasse 191, CH-8046 Zurich, Switzerland; Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Eawag, Überlandstrasse 133, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland; Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zürich, Universitätsstrasse 16, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland; 2: Environmental Analytics, Agroscope, Reckenholzstrasse 191, CH-8046 Zurich, Switzerland; Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zürich, Universitätsstrasse 16, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland 3: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Eawag, Überlandstrasse 133, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland; Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zürich, Universitätsstrasse 16, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland 4: Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering, ETH Zurich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland 5: Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zürich, Universitätsstrasse 16, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland 6: Environmental Analytics, Agroscope, Reckenholzstrasse 191, CH-8046 Zurich, Switzerland;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • International Journal for Chemistry and Official Membership Journal of the Swiss Chemical Society (SCS) and its Divisions

    CHIMIA, a scientific journal for chemistry in the broadest sense, is published 10 times a year and covers the interests of a wide and diverse readership. Contributions from all fields of chemistry and related areas are considered for publication in the form of Review Articles and Notes. A characteristic feature of CHIMIA are the thematic issues, each devoted to an area of great current significance.

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