Untargeted and Targeted Fingerprinting of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Volatiles by Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry: Challenges in Long-Term Studies

Federico Stilo, Erica Liberto, Stephen E. Reichenbach, Qingping Tao, Carlo Bicchi, Chiara Cordero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometric detection (GC × GC-MS) offers an information-rich basis for effective chemical fingerprinting of food. However, GC × GC-MS yields 2D-peak patterns (i.e., sample 2D fingerprints) whose consistency may be affected by variables related to either the analytical platform or to the experimental parameters adopted for the analysis. This study focuses on the complex volatile fraction of extra-virgin olive oil and addresses 2D-peak patterns variations, including MS signal fluctuations, as they may occur in long-term studies where pedo-climatic, harvest year, or shelf life changes are studied. The 2D-pattern misalignments are forced by changing chromatographic settings and MS acquisition. All procedural steps, preceding pattern recognition by template matching, are analyzed and a rational workflow defined to accurately realign patterns and analytes metadata. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) detection threshold, reference spectra extraction, and similarity match factor threshold are critical to avoid false-negative matches. Distance thresholds and polynomial transform parameters are key for effective template matching. In targeted analysis (supervised workflow) with optimized parameters, method accuracy reaches 92.5% (i.e., % of true-positive matches) while for combined untargeted and targeted (UT) fingerprinting (unsupervised workflow), accuracy reaches 97.9%. Response normalization also is examined, evidencing good performance of multiple internal standard normalization that effectively compensates for discriminations occurring during injection of highly volatile compounds. The resulting workflow is simple, effective, and time efficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5289-5302
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - May 8 2019



  • combined untargeted and targeted (UT) fingerprinting
  • comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry
  • data alignment in long-term studies
  • extra-virgin olive oil volatiles
  • template matching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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