Metabolite profiling of RCS-4, a novel synthetic cannabinoid designer drug, using human hepatocyte metabolism and TOF-MS

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Since 2009, scheduling legislation of synthetic cannabinoids prompted new compound emergence to circumvent legal restrictions. 2-(4-methoxyphenyl)-1-(1-pentyl-indol-3-yl)methanone (RCS-4) is a potent cannabinoid receptor agonist sold in herbal smoking blends. Absence of parent synthetic cannabinoids in urine suggests the importance of metabolite identification for detecting RCS-4 consumption in clinical and forensic investigations.

Materials & methods & Results:

With 1 h human hepatocyte incubation and TOF high-resolution MS, we identified 18 RCS-4 metabolites, many not yet reported. Most metabolites were hydroxylated with or without demethylation, carboxylation and dealkylation followed by glucuronidation. One additional sulfated metabolite was also observed. O-demethylation was the most common biotransformation and generated the major metabolite.


For the first time, we present a metabolic scheme of RCS-4 obtained from human hepatocytes, including Phase I and II metabolites. Metabolite structural information and associated high-resolution mass spectra can be employed for developing clinical and forensic laboratory RCS-4 urine screening methods.

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