Fully automated determination of nicotine and its major metabolites in whole blood by means of a DBS online-SPE LC-HR-MS/MS approach for sports drug testing

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HIGHLIGHTSWhole blood dried on filter paper—a minimal invasive sampling technique.Fully automated DBS extraction coupled to online-SPE and LC-HR-MS/MS.DBS analysis of nicotine and its major metabolites for sports drug testing.Metabolism based differentiation between different routes of administration.Analysis of administration study samples of snus users and (e-) cigarette smokers.Dried blood spots (DBS) represent a sample matrix collected under minimal-invasive, straightforward and robust conditions. DBS specimens have been shown to provide appropriate test material for different analytical disciplines, e.g., preclinical drug development, therapeutic drug monitoring, forensic toxicology and diagnostic analysis of metabolic disorders in newborns. However, the sample preparation has occasionally been reported as laborious and time consuming. In order to minimize the manual workload and to substantiate the suitability of DBS for high sample-throughput, the automation of sample preparation processes is of paramount interest. In the current study, the development and validation of a fully automated DBS extraction method coupled to online solid-phase extraction using the example of nicotine, its major metabolites nornicotine, cotinine and trans-3′-hydroxycotinine and the tobacco alkaloids anabasine and anatabine is presented, based on the rationale that the use of nicotine-containing products for performance-enhancing purposes has been monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for several years. Automation-derived DBS sample extracts were directed online to liquid chromatography high resolution/high mass accuracy tandem mass spectrometry, and target analytes were determined with support of four deuterated internal standards. Validation of the method yielded precise (CV <7.5% for intraday and <12.3% for interday measurements) and linear (r2 > 0.998) results. The limit of detection was established at 5 ng mL−1 for all studied compounds, the extraction recovery ranged from 25 to 44%, and no matrix effects were observed. To exemplify the applicability of the DBS online-SPE LC–MS/MS approach for sports drug testing purposes, the method was applied to authentic DBS samples obtained from smokers, snus users, and e-cigarette users. Statistical evaluation of the obtained results indicated differences in metabolic behavior depending on the route of administration (inhalative versus buccal absorption) in terms of the ratio of nicotine and nornicotine.

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