Nʹ-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN), a carcinogenic tobacco-specific Nʹ-nitrosamine (TSNA), is on the FDA list of harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs). Nornicotine, a product of the demethylation of nicotine, is the immediate alkaloid precursor for NNN formation. Nicotine, nornicotine and NNN are optically active. The accumulation of the isomers of nicotine, nornicotine, and NNN impacts their biological activity. In this paper, we report the determination of tobacco alkaloid enantiomers (including nicotine, nornicotine, anabasine, and anatabine) in samples of different tobacco lines using a reversed phase ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometer (UPLC/MS/MS) method. Current method demonstates excellent detection capability for all alkaloid enantiomers, with correlation coefficients (r2) > 0.996 within their linear dynamic ranges. The limit of detection (LOD) and limit of quantitation (LOQ) of all analytes are less than 10 ng/mL and 30 ng/mL, respectively. In addition, their recovery and coefficient of variation (CV%) are within 100–115% and 0.2–3.7%, respectively. The method validated in this paper is simple, fast, and sensitive for the quantification of alkaloid enantiomers in tobacco leaf and has been applied to investigations of tobacco alkaloid enantiomer ratios in different tobacco lines and tobacco products.

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Published in Heliyon, v. 5, issue 5, e01719, p. 1-6.

© 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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This work was supported by the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center Summit Grant and in part, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through grant RFA-FD-14-001 and RFA-FD-15-026.