Evidence for High Concentrations and Maternal Transfer of Substituted Diphenylamines in European Eels Analyzed by Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography–Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry and Gas Chromatography–Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry


Chemical pollution is hypothesized to be one of the factors driving the strong decline of the critically endangered European eel population. Specifically, the impact of contaminants on the quality of spawning eels and subsequent embryo survival and development has been discussed as crucial investigation point. However, so far, only very limited information on potential negative effects of contaminants on the reproduction of eels is available. Through the combination of nontargeted ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry and multidimensional gas chromatography, combined with more-conventional targeted analytical approaches and multimedia mass-balance modeling, compounds of particular relevance, and their maternal transfer in artificially matured European eels from the German river Ems have been identified. Substituted diphenylamines were, unexpectedly, found to be the primary organic contaminants in the eel samples, with concentrations in the μg g–1 wet weight range. Furthermore, it could be shown that these contaminants, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are not merely stored in lipid rich tissue of eels but maternally transferred into gonads and eggs. The results of this study provide unique information on both the fate and behavior of substituted diphenylamines in the environment as well as their relevance as contaminants in European eels.
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