Mass spectrometry-based visualization of molecules associated with human habitats

Daniel Petras, Louis Félix Nothias, Robert A. Quinn, Theodore Alexandrov, Nuno Bandeira, Amina Bouslimani, Gabriel Castro-Falcón, Liangyu Chen, Tam Dang, Dimitrios J. Floros, Vivian Hook, Neha Garg, Nicole Hoffner, Yike Jiang, Clifford A. Kapono, Irina Koester, Rob Knight, Christopher A. Leber, Tie Jun Ling, Tal Luzzatto-KnaanLaura Isobel McCall, Aaron P. McGrath, Michael J. Meehan, Jonathan K. Merritt, Robert H. Mills, Jamie Morton, Sonia Podvin, Ivan Protsyuk, Trevor Purdy, Kendall Satterfield, Stephen Searles, Sahil Shah, Sarah Shires, Dana Steffen, Margot White, Jelena Todoric, Robert Tuttle, Aneta Wojnicz, Valerie Sapp, Fernando Vargas, Jin Yang, Chao Zhang, Pieter C. Dorrestein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cars we drive, the homes we live in, the restaurants we visit, and the laboratories and offices we work in are all a part of the modern human habitat. Remarkably, little is known about the diversity of chemicals present in these environments and to what degree molecules from our bodies influence the built environment that surrounds us and vice versa. We therefore set out to visualize the chemical diversity of five built human habitats together with their occupants, to provide a snapshot of the various molecules to which humans are exposed on a daily basis. The molecular inventory was obtained through untargeted liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) analysis of samples from each human habitat and from the people that occupy those habitats. Mapping MS-derived data onto 3D models of the environments showed that frequently touched surfaces, such as handles (e.g., door, bicycle), resemble the molecular fingerprint of the human skin more closely than other surfaces that are less frequently in direct contact with humans (e.g., wall, bicycle frame). Approximately 50% of the MS/MS spectra detected were shared between people and the environment. Personal care products, plasticizers, cleaning supplies, food, food additives, and even medications that were found to be a part of the human habitat. The annotations indicate that significant transfer of chemicals takes place between us and our built environment. The workflows applied here will lay the foundation for future studies of molecular distributions in medical, forensic, architectural, space exploration, and environmental applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10775-10784
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project is supported in part by the Sloan Foundation and the European Union’s Horizon2020 program (Grant 634402). G.C.F. thanks Scripps Institution of Oceanography for a San Diego Fellowship (Grant 2T32GM067550-10) as part of The Training Program in Marine Biotechnology (NIH Grant GM067550) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for a Gilliam Fellowship. The work described in this paper was a part of a UCSD course on system wide mass spectrometry. The majority of authors are faculty or students of that course. We thank Mr. Koby Arbely and Mrs. Lingli Zhu for their help with constructing the 3D model of the apartment and Aaron W. Puri University of Washington Department of Chemical Engineering for participating is sample collection during his visit to UCSD. Finally, thanks to Kathleen Dorrestein for reading the manuscript prior to submission.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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