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J Chromatogr B Biomed Sci Appl. 2000 Mar 10;739(2):301-12.

Validation of an analytical procedure to measure trace amounts of neurosteroids in brain tissue by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

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  • 1INSERM U488 et Collège de France, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France.


A selective and extremely sensitive procedure has been developed and optimized, using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), specific derivatization and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), to simultaneously quantify very small amounts of different neurosteroids from rat brain. Unconjugated and sulfated steroids in brain extracts were separated by solid-phase extraction. The unconjugated fraction was further purified by HPLC, the steroids being collected in a single fraction, and the sulfated fraction was solvolyzed. All steroids were derivatized with heptafluorobutyric acid anhydride and analyzed by GC-MS (electron impact ionization) using selected-ion monitoring. High sensitivity and accuracy were obtained for all steroids. The detection limits were 1 pg for pregnenolone (PREG), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and their sulfate esters PREG-S and DHEA-S, 2 pg for progesterone (PROG) and 5 pg for 3alpha,5alpha-tetrahydroprogesterone (3alpha,5alpha-THP). In a pilot study on a rat brain, the concentrations of PREG-S and DHEA-S were 8.26+/-0.80 and 2.47+/-0.27 ng/g, respectively. Those of PREG, DHEA and PROG were 4.17+/-0.22, 0.45+/-0.02 and 1.95+/-0.10 ng/g, respectively. Good linearity and accuracy were observed for each steroid. The methodology validated here, allows femtomoles of neurosteroids, including the sulfates, found in small brain samples (at least equal to 10 mg) to be quantified simultaneously.

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