A Reliable Method Based on Liquid Chromatography–Tandem Mass Spectrometry for the Simultaneous Quantification of Neurotransmitters in Caenorhabditis elegans
Neurotransmitters like dopamine (DA), serotonin (SRT), γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and acetylcholine (ACh) are messenger molecules that play a pivotal role in transmitting excitation between neurons across chemical synapses, thus enabling complex processes in the central nervous system (CNS). Balance in neurotransmitter homeostasis is essential, and altered neurotransmitter levels are associated with various neurological disorders, e.g., loss of dopaminergic neurons (Parkinson’s disease) or altered ACh synthesis (Alzheimer’s disease). Therefore, it is crucial to possess adequate tools to assess precise neurotransmitter levels, and to apply targeted therapies. An established in vivo model to study neurotoxicity is the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans ( C. elegans ), as its neurons have been well characterized and functionally are analogous to mammals. We have developed a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method including a sample preparation assuring neurotransmitter stability, which allows a simultaneous neurotransmitter quantification of DA, SRT, GABA and ACh in C. elegans , but can easily be applied to other matrices. LC-MS/MS combined with isotope-labeled standards is the tool of choice, due to its otherwise unattainable sensitivity and specificity. Using C. elegans together with our analytically validated and verified method provides a powerful tool to evaluate mechanisms of neurotoxicity, and furthermore to identify possible therapeutic approaches.