Date of Award

Summer 8-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Dr. Richard Cole

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark Trudell

Third Advisor

Dr. Edwin Stevens

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Matthew Tarr


Metabolomics is an emerging field that entails the detailed characterization of the ensemble of metabolites produced by living organisms; subfields include drug metabolism and natural environmental toxin production. The first part of the dissertation pursued metabolism of glyceollins, i.e., isoflavones produced by soybeans, that are potential cancer therapy agents. In vivo glyceollin metabolites produced in rats were investigated by on-line Liquid Chromatography-Electrospray Ionization Tandem Mass Spectrometry. An odd-electron fragment ion at m/z 148, formed in violation of the even-electron rule, and diagnostic of the glyceollin backbone, was discovered. Based on this finding, a negative mode precursor ion scanning method was developed to screen for glyceollins and their metabolites from biological samples. Products of both Phase I and Phase II metabolism were identified, none of which have been previously reported. Sulfated metabolites were confirmed by accurate mass measurement, while glucuronide conjugation was confirmed by enzyme-assisted glucuronidation by rat liver microsomes. Intact GSH-glyceollin conjugates were not observed, but breakdown products of the GSH pathway, i.e., cysteinylglyceine, cysteine, and acetylated cysteine, were identified as conjugates of oxygenated glyceollins. The identification of GSH by-product conjugates was confirmed in product ion spectra acquired in the negative mode (where peptide anions, and glyceollin-bearing cleaved peptide portions were observed), as well as in the positive mode (where intact oxygenated glyceollin fragments appeared without the initially-present peptide portion). Mass spectral evidence strongly supports a metabolic pathway involving initial epoxidation of glyceollins followed by GSH addition at the epoxidation site.

The second part of the dissertation undertook the investigation of secondary metabolites called microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) produced by fungi (mold) that have been reported to have adverse human health effects. MVOCs were collected onto different sorbent materials and analyzed by Thermal Desorption Analysis coupled with on-line Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. Fungal MVOCs were characterized from various simulated flooding conditions (brackish, freshwater, and saltwater) and different substrates (nutrient rich vs. low nutrient) to determine diagnostic MVOCs. Ten fungi from simulated environments were identified by genetic sequencing. Cladosporium sp. and Chaetomium sp. were cultivated and their emitted MVOCs, 3-furaldehyde and 3-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-2-propenal, were proposed as diagnostic indicators of these fungi.


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