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Issue 2, 2011
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Absolute quantification of transferrin in blood samples of harbour seals using HPLC-ICP-MS

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Harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) are bio-indicators for the assessment of their habitat and environmental changes. Besides population parameters and trends (survival, age structure, sex ratio), the individual health status represents a further important parameter for this assessment. The health status of seals is a complex and vague term, determined by a wide range of diagnostic parameters. Quantities of important blood proteins such as transferrin (Tf), as well as altered distribution patterns of its glycoforms, are frequently used as biomarkers in clinical diagnosis. Within this context Tf quantities and a varying pattern of its glycoforms are used as indicator for e.g. certain liver diseases, which also represents one of the most frequently observed pathological indication in harbour seals of the North Sea. Currently, most assay based quantification methods for Tf are limited since they often provide only information regarding the total Tf concentration rather than information of its different glycoforms. Due to a lack of suitable seal Tf antibodies also the application of more specific antibody based approaches is not possible. Within this background a new approach for the absolute quantification of the iron-transport protein Tf in the blood of harbour seals using its characteristic iron content and HPLC-ICP-MS detection is described. Method validation was performed using a certified human serum reference material (ERM-DA470K/IFCC). A Tf concentration of 2.33 ± 0.03 g L−1 (sum of all quantified glycoforms) has been calculated, which is in good agreement with the certified total Tf concentration of 2.35 ± 0.08 g L−1, confirming the accuracy of the proposed analytical method. Finally, different seal samples were analysed to demonstrate the suitability of the procedure for the quantification of Tf in real samples as well as to observe modified glycoform patterns. Compared to our previous studies for the first time it was possible to quantify the serum Tf baseline reference range for male (1.42–2.35 g L−1) and female German North Sea seals (1.93–2.74 g L−1) as well as a CDT level of 0.00–0.10 g L−1, respectively, which provides valuable further diagnostic information regarding the health status of these specific marine mammals. Compared to assay based quantification approaches the proposed technique indicates great potential to obtain comparable and traceable absolute quantitative results, which are in particular important for long term investigations. This absolute quantification is based on an accurate, traceable element standard, while assay based approaches often show variations depending on the kit quality or changing activities of the used antibodies.

Graphical abstract: Absolute quantification of transferrin in blood samples of harbour seals using HPLC-ICP-MS

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Publication details

The article was received on 11 Nov 2010, accepted on 23 Dec 2010 and first published on 27 Jan 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00076K
Citation: Metallomics, 2011,3, 176-185
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    Absolute quantification of transferrin in blood samples of harbour seals using HPLC-ICP-MS

    M. Grebe, D. Pröfrock, A. Kakuschke, J. A. C. Broekaert and A. Prange, Metallomics, 2011, 3, 176
    DOI: 10.1039/C0MT00076K

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