Speciation analysis of selenium in human urine allowed for the first time the identification of a novel selenium metabolite, Se-methylselenoneine. Despite a concentration at low ppb level, its characterization was achieved after sample purification by solid phase extraction (SPE) followed by the parallel coupling of the bidimensional RP/HILIC chromatography with ICP-MS and ESI-LTQ Orbitrap MS detection. To confirm its biological significance with regards to selenoneine, the recently discovered analog of ergothioneine, and to discard the possibility of sample preparation artifacts, a new method was developed to monitor its actual presence, as well as the occurrence of its sulfur and/or non-methylated analogs, in non-preconcentrated urine and blood samples of non-supplemented humans. It consisted in a HILIC ESI-MS3 method in high resolution mode (resolution 30 000 at m/z 400) with large isolation width windows for precursor ions. These two particular settings allowed respectively to keep observing the specific mass defect of selenium- and sulfur-containing molecules and to maintain the characteristic selenium pattern in product ions created through MSn fragmentations. As a result, all four metabolites were detected in blood and three of them in urine. Moreover, different ratios “methylated/non-methylated” were observed between urine and blood samples, which seemed to indicate their active metabolization. The analytical tool developed here will be of a great importance to further study the occurrence and the potential metabolic role in mammalian organelles, cells and fluids of these very particular and promising redox metabolites.
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