Calculation of retention time tolerance windows with absolute confidence from shared liquid chromatographic retention data

Paul G. Boswell, Daniel Abate-Pella, Joshua T. Hewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Compound identification by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) is a tedious process, mainly because authentic standards must be run on a user's system to be able to confidently reject a potential identity from its retention time and mass spectral properties. Instead, it would be preferable to use shared retention time/index data to narrow down the identity, but shared data cannot be used to reject candidates with an absolute level of confidence because the data are strongly affected by differences between HPLC systems and experimental conditions. However, a technique called "retention projection" was recently shown to account for many of the differences. In this manuscript, we discuss an approach to calculate appropriate retention time tolerance windows for projected retention times, potentially making it possible to exclude candidates with an absolute level of confidence, without needing to have authentic standards of each candidate on hand. In a range of multi-segment gradients and flow rates run among seven different labs, the new approach calculated tolerance windows that were significantly more appropriate for each retention projection than global tolerance windows calculated for retention projections or linear retention indices. Though there were still some small differences between the labs that evidently were not taken into account, the calculated tolerance windows only needed to be relaxed by 50% to make them appropriate for all labs. Even then, 42% of the tolerance windows calculated in this study without standards were narrower than those required by WADA for positive identification, where standards must be run contemporaneously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-58
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
StatePublished - Sep 18 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry
  • Retention database
  • Retention prediction
  • Retention projection
  • Retention time tolerance window


Dive into the research topics of 'Calculation of retention time tolerance windows with absolute confidence from shared liquid chromatographic retention data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this