Mass spectrometry as a versatile ancillary technique for the rapid in situ identification of lichen metabolites directly from TLC plates

Pierre Le Pogam, Aline Pillot, Françoise Lohezic-le Devehat, Anne-Cécile Le Lamer, Béatrice Legouin, Alice Gadea, Aurélie Sauvager, Damien Ertz, Joël Boustie

Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) still enjoys widespread popularity among lichenologists as one of the fastest and simplest analytical strategies, today remaining the primary method of assessing the secondary product content of lichens. The pitfalls associated with this approach are well known as TLC leads to characterizing compounds by comparison with standards rather than properly identifying them, which might lead to erroneous assignments, accounting for the long-held interest in hyphenating TLC with dedicated identification tools. As such, commercially available TLC/Mass Spectrometry (MS) interfaces can be easily connected to any brand of mass spectrometer without adjustments. The spots of interest are extracted from the TLC plate to retrieve mass spectrometric signals within one minute, thereby ensuring accurate identification of the chromatographed substances. The results of this hyphenated strategy for lichens are presented here by 1) describing the TLC migration and direct MS analysis of single lichen metabolites of various structural classes, 2) highlighting it through the chemical profiling of crude acetone extracts of a set of lichens of known chemical composition, and finally 3) applying it to a lichen of unknown profile, Usnea trachycarpa.

The TLC/MS analysis was carried out using Advion Expression® CMS + Plate Express.