Sensitive determination of 20(S)-protopanaxadiol in rat plasma using HPLC–APCI-MS: Application of pharmacokinetic study in rats

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20(S)-Protopanaxadiol (PPD), the main metabolite of protopanoxadiol type ginsenosides (e.g. Rg3 and Rh2), is a very promising anti-cancer drug candidate. To evaluate the pharmacokinetic property of PPD, we reported a reliable, sensitive and simple method utilizing liquid chromatography (HPLC)-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization-mass spectrometry (APCI-MS) to determine PPD. PPD and the internal standard, panoxadiol (PD) were extracted from plasma with acetic ether, separated on a C18 reverse column, and then analyzed by APCI-MS. Targeting fragment ion at m/z 425 for both PPD and PD was monitored in selected-ion monitoring (SIM) mode. PPD can be quantitatively determined at the concentration as low as 1 ng/mL using 200 μL plasma. And the sensitive method showed excellent linearity over a range from 1 to 1000 ng/mL, high recovery, accuracy and precision at the concentrations of 2.5, 100.0 and 1000.0 ng/mL, respectively. The method was successfully applied to pharmacokinetic study of PPD in rats. Pharmacokinetic parameters were calculated and absolute bioavailability of PPD was 36.8 ± 12.4%, at least ten times higher than that of Rg3 and Rh2, indicating its good absorption in gastrointestinal tract. It was further suggested that PPD be a promising anti-cancer candidate and probably responsible for the observed pharmacological activity of Rg3 and Rh2.

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