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Intracellular measurements of anti-HIV drugs indinavir, amprenavir, saquinavir, ritonavir, nelfinavir, lopinavir, atazanavir, efavirenz and nevirapine in peripheral blood mononuclear cells by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry.

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  • 1Division de Pharmacologie clinique, Laboratoire BH 18-218, D├ępartement de M├ędecine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, 1011 Lausanne CHUV, Switzerland.


A sensitive and accurate liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometric (LC-MS/MS) method for the intracellular determination of nine antiretroviral drugs in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) is proposed. PBMCs are isolated by density gradient centrifugation using Vacutainer CPT tubes and cell count is performed with a Coulter instrument. Single-step extraction of drugs from PBMCs pellets is performed with MeOH 50% (with clozapine added as internal standard, I.S.) and the supernatant is injected onto a 2.1 mm x 30 mm SymmetryShield 3.5 microm-RP18 column equipped with a 2.1 x 10 mm guard column. Chromatographic separations are performed using a gradient program with a mixture of 2 mM ammonium acetate containing 0.1% formic acid and acetonitrile with 0.1% formic acid. Analytes quantification is performed by electro-spray ionisation-triple quadrupole mass spectrometry using the selected reaction monitoring (SRM) detection mode. The positive mode is used for the HIV protease inhibitors (PIs) indinavir, amprenavir, saquinavir, ritonavir, nelfinavir, lopinavir, atazanavir and the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) nevirapine, and the negative mode is applied for efavirenz. The calibration curves are prepared using blank PBMCs spiked with antiretroviral drugs at concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 100 ng/ml of cell extracts and fitted to a quadratic regression model weighted by 1/(concentration)(2). The lower limit of quantification is less than 0.5 ng/ml. The mean extraction recovery for all PIs/NNRTIs is always above 88%. The method is precise, with mean inter-day CV% within 0.6-10.2%, and accurate (range of inter-day deviation from nominal values -7.2 to +8.3%). This analytical method can be conveniently used in clinical research for the assessment of intracellular levels of all PIs/NNRTIs commercially available at present using a simple one-step cell extraction of PBMCs followed by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem triple quadripole mass detection.

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