Application of Global Metabolomics to the Identification of Complex Counterfeit Medicinal Products

Conor Jenkins1,2 and Ben Orsburn1,3*

1Think20 Labs, Columbia, MD
2Hood College Department of Biology, Frederick, MD 21702
3Proteomics und Genomics, Baltimore, MD

*To whom correspondence should be addressed; ben.orsburn@think20labs.com



Food fraud and drug counterfeiting are of increasingly large concern to both global economics and to public health and safety. Simple medicinal products consisting of single synthesized or purified compounds can be tested for purity and authenticity rapidly with established assays such as chromatography and UV absorbance. Drugs derived from natural sources may contain hundreds or thousands of distinct chemical compounds and require correspondingly complex analytical methods. In this study we explore the use of methods developed for global metabolic profiling toward the identification of unknown complex medicinal products. By utilizing rapid solvent extraction followed by ultrahigh pressure high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) coupled to high resolution accurate mass spectrometry (HRAM-MS/MS), we can reliably obtain a profile of the sample’s molecular makeup.After profiling plant material to the depth of over 1,000 distinct molecules identified and quantified, we utilize these profiles to identify separately prepared and individually assayed blinded samples. We conclude that once a comprehensive library of small molecules has been acquired for each sample, identical preparations of products of unknown origin may be identified using simple statistical tools such as principal component analysis. We also conclude that these tools will be a valuable resource in affordably identified contaminated, adulterated and counterfeit products.

The Cannabis Multi-Omics Draft Map Project

Conor Jenkins1,2,3 and Ben Orsburn2*
1Hood College Department of Biology, Frederick, MD
2Proteomic und Genomic Sciences, Baltimore, MD
3Think20 Labs, Columbia, MD
*To whom correspondence should be addressed; orsburn@vt.edu



Recently we have seen a relaxation of the historic restrictions on the use and subsequent research on theCannabis plants, generally classified as Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. What research has been performed to date has centered on chemical analysis of plant flower products, namely cannabinoids and various terpenes that directly contribute to phenotypic characteristics of the female flowers. In addition, we have seen many groups recently completing genetic profiles of various plants of commercial value. To date, no comprehensive attempt has been made to profile the proteomes of these plants. We report herein our progress on constructing a comprehensive draft map of the Cannabis proteome. To date we have identified over 17,000 potential protein sequences. Unfortunately, no annotated genome ofCannabis plants currently exists. We present a method by which “next generation” DNA sequencing output and shotgun proteomics data can be combined to produce annotated FASTA files, bypassing the need for annotated genetic information altogether in traditional proteomics workflows. The resulting material represents the first comprehensive annotated FASTA for any Cannabis plant. Using this annotated database as reference we can refine our protein identifications, resulting in the confident identification of 13,000 proteins with putative function. Furthermore, we demonstrate that post- translational modifications play an important role in the proteomes of Cannabis flower, particularly lysine acetylation and protein glycosylation. To facilitate the evolution of analytical investigations into these plant materials, we have created a portal to host resources we have developed from proteomic and metabolomic analysis of Cannabis plant material as well as our results integrating these resources. All data for this project is available to view or download at www.CannabisDraftMap.Org