Determination of β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) in plant (Cycas circinalis L.) and animal tissue by precolumn derivatization with 9-fluorenylmethyl chloroformate (FMOC) and reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography

Glen E. Kisby, Dwijendra N. Roy, Peter S. Spencer

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A high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method is described for determining subpicomole concentrations of β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) in plant and animal tissue. BMAA and other amino acids were reacted with 9-fluorenylmethyl chloroformate (FMOC) for 10 min under alkaline conditions to form highly fluorescent and stable derivatives. All amino acids, including BMAA, eluted from the column within 22 min. BMAA (tr = 18.02 ± 0.07 min) was detected in Cycas circinalis L. seed and in serum, cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue from BMAA-treated monkeys and rats. The primary amino acids glutamine, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, alanine, glycine and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) could also be detected since they were well resolved from BMAA. These amino acids and BMAA were linear over the concentration range of 0.15-7.5 μM with a relative standard deviation ranging from 2.1-6.7%. This method should prove useful in studies to determine the role of BMAA in the Western Pacific amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Parkinsonism-dementia complex for which cycad seed is the principal etiological candidate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1988



  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Brain tissue
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cycad
  • Serum
  • β-N-Methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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