Simultaneous determination of 18 tetrahydrocorticosteroid sulfates in human urine by liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry

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Abstract

A liquid chromatography (LC)/electrospray ionization (ESI)-mass spectrometry (MS) method for the direct determination of eighteen tetrahydrocorticosteroid sulfates in human urine has been developed. The analytes were 3- and 21-monosulfates and 3,21-disulfates of tetrahydrocortisol (THF), tetrahydrocortisone (THE), tetrahydro-11-deoxycortisol (THS), and their corresponding 5α-H stereoisomers. The mass spectrometric behavior of these sulfates in negative-ion ESI-MS/MS revealed the production of intense structure specific product ions within the same group of sulfates and permitted distinction between regioisomeric sulfates by collision-induced fragmentation with the MS/MS technique using a linear ion-trap instrument. For the quantitative analysis, selected reaction monitoring analysis in the negative-ion detection mode using triple-stage quadrupole mass spectrometer was performed by monitoring transitions from [M−H]− to the most abundant product ion of each tetrahydrocorticosteroid sulfate. After addition of 3- and 21-monosulfates of [2,2,3β,4,4-d5]-THF, -THE, and -THS as internal standards, urine sample was applied to a solid phase extraction using a lipophilic-weak anion exchange cartridge column, and then analyzed by LC/ESI-MS/MS. The method had satisfactory performance in terms of intra- and inter-assay precision (less than 9.7% and 9.6%, respectively), and accuracy (91.2–108.2%). The limit of quantification was lower than 2.5 ng/mL for all sulfates examined. We applied this method to determine the concentration of eighteen tetrahydrocorticosteroid sulfates in the urine of healthy subjects. Thus, we have developed a sensitive, precise and accurate assay for urinary tetrahydrocorticosteroid sulfates that should be useful for clinical and biological studies.

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