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Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Dec 1;45(23):10140-7. doi: 10.1021/es203002a. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

Analysis of thyroid hormones in serum of Baikal seals and humans by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and immunoassay methods: application of the LC-MS/MS method to wildlife tissues.

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  • 1Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, and Sciences, School of Public Health, State University of New York at Albany, Empire State Plaza, P.O. Box 509, Albany, New York 12201-0509, United States. txk06@health.state.ny.us


Thyroid hormones (THs) are essential for the regulation of growth and development in both humans and wildlife. Until recently, TH concentrations in the tissues of animals have been examined by immunoassay (IA) methods. IA methods are sensitive, but for TH analysis, they are compromised by a lack of adequate specificity. In this study, we determined the concentrations of six THs, L-thyroxine (T(4)), 3,3',5-triiodo-L-thyronine (T(3)), 3,3',5'-triiodo-L-thyronine (rT(3)), 3,5-diiodo-L-thyronine (3,5-T(2)), 3,3'-diiodo-L-thyronine (3,3'-T(2)), and 3-iodo-L-thyronine (3-T(1)), in the serum of humans (n = 79) and wild Baikal seals (n = 37), by isotope ([(13)C(6)]-T(4))-dilution liquid chromatography (LC)-tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), and compared the TH levels with those measured by an electrochemiluminescent immunoassay (ECLIA) method. T(3) and T(4) were detected in all serum samples of both humans and Baikal seals, whereas T(1), 3,3'-T(2), and 3,5-T(2) were below the limit of detection (LOD). rT(3) was detected in Baikal seal sera at concentrations higher than T(3) in 28 seal samples, indicating an anomaly in deiodinase activity in Baikal seals. In humans, regression analyses of TH concentrations, measured by ECLIA and LC-MS/MS methods, showed significant correlations for T(4) (r = 0.852) and T(3) (r = 0.676; after removal of a serum sample with abnormal T(3) levels). In Baikal seals, a low correlation coefficient (r = 0.466) for T(4) levels and no correlation for T(3) levels (p = 0.093) were found between ECLIA and LC-MS/MS methods. These results suggest that interference by a nonspecific reaction against anti-T(3) and anti-T(4) antibodies used in the ECLIA can contribute to inaccuracies in TH measurement in Baikal seals. When the relationship between concentrations of THs in sera and dioxin-like toxic equivalents in blubber samples of Baikal seals (n = 19) was examined, a significantly negative correlation was found for serum T(4) levels measured by the LC-MS/MS method, but not for those measured by ECLIA. Thus, our results indicate that the LC-MS/MS method is more reliable and accurate for the elucidation of alteration in circulating TH levels in wildlife, as caused by environmental and physiological factors.

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