Screening of regulated and emerging mycotoxins in bulk milk samples by high-resolution mass spectrometry

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In this work, a retrospective screening based on ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) based on Orbitrap-QExactive Focus™ was used to check the occurrence of regulated and emerging mycotoxins in bulk milk samples. Milk samples were collected from dairy farms in which corn silage was the main ingredient of the feeding system. The 45 bulk milk samples were previously analyzed for a detailed untargeted metabolomic profiling and classified into five clusters according to the corn silage contamination profile, namely: (1) low levels of Aspergillus-and Penicillium-mycotoxins; (2) low levels of fumonisins and other Fusarium-mycotoxins; (3) high levels of Aspergillus-mycotoxins; (4) high levels of non-regulated Fusarium-mycotoxins; (5) high levels of fumonisins and their metabolites. Multivariate statistics based on both unsupervised and supervised analyses were used to evaluate the significant fold-change variations of the main groups of mycotoxins detected when comparing milk samples from clusters 3, 4, and 5 (high contamination levels of the corn silages) with cluster 1 and 2 (low contamination levels of the corn silages). Overall, 14 compounds showed a significant prediction ability, with antibiotic Y (VIP score = 2.579), bikaverin (VIP score = 1.975) and fumonisin B2 (VIP score = 1.846) being the best markers. The k-means clustering combined with supervised statistics showed two discriminant groups of milk samples, thus revealing a hierarchically higher impact of the whole feeding system (rather than the only corn silages) together with other factors of variability on the final mycotoxin contamination profile. Among the discriminant metabolites we found some Fusarium mycotoxins, together with the tetrapeptide tentoxin (an Alternaria toxin), the α-zearalenol (a catabolite of zearalenone), mycophenolic acid and apicidin. These preliminary findings provide new insights into the potential role of UHPLC-HRMS to evaluate the contamination profile and the safety of raw milk to produce hard cheese.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)N/A-N/A
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Milk metabolomics
  • Multivariate statistics
  • Mycotoxins
  • Retrospective screening
  • UHPLC-Orbitrap


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