The impact of ion-pairing reagents on the selectivity and sensitivity in the analysis of modified oligonucleotides in serum samples by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry

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Present study highlights the usage of various ion-pairing agents and their impact on the process of separation and ionization of oligonucleotides in the fortified human serum samples. What is more, retention studies involved different stationary phases, including: octadecyl, phenyl, pentafluorophenyl groups and ligands with embedded polar groups. It was proved that retention of oligonucleotides strongly depends on the alkyl chain branching in the structure of ion pairing reagent. Furthermore ion-pairing agents build of straight alkyl chain are more easily adsorbed on the stationary phase modified with octadecyl groups, while branching of alkyl chain caused more effective adsorption of studied compounds at phenyl groups compared to octadecyl ones. The lowest limit of quantification values were obtained for 5 mM N,N-dimethylbutylamine, while the highest values are characteristic for hexylamine. Moreover it was shown that a 2-fold increase of ion-pairing agent concentration results in higher LOQ. The greatest sensitivity was obtained for 2.5 mM N,N-dimethylbutylamine/150 mM hexafluoroisopropanol. On the other hand Hypersil GOLD aQ column was the most appropriate in terms of time and separation effectiveness. The developed method was successfully used for the determination of studied oligonucleotides and their metabolites in human serum samples. The compounds were separated in just 3.5 min with high sensitivity (0.09–0.16 ng).

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