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Clin Chem. 2001 Sep;47(9):1627-32.

Quantitative measurement of porphobilinogen in urine by stable-isotope dilution liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.

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Biochemical Genetics Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Measurement of porphobilinogen (PBG) is useful in the diagnosis of the acute neurologic porphyrias. Currently used colorimetric assays lack analytical and clinical sensitivity and specificity.


We developed a liquid chromatography-electrospray tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method for the measurement of PBG in 1 mL of urine, using 5-(aminoethyl)-4-(carboxymethyl) 1H-2,4-[(13)C]pyrolle-3-propanoic acid ([2,4-(13)C]PBG; 2.75 microg) as internal standard. After solid-phase extraction, LC-MS/MS analysis was performed in the selected-reaction monitoring (SRM) mode. PBG and [2,4-(13)C]PBG were monitored through their own precursor and product ion settings (m/z 227 to 210 and m/z 229 to 212, respectively). The retention time of PBG and [2,4-(13)C]PBG was 1.0 min in a 2.3-min analysis.


Daily calibrations (n = 6) between 0.1 and 2.0 mg/L were linear and reproducible. Inter- and intraassay CVs were 3.2-3.5% and 2.6-3.1%, respectively, at mean concentrations of 0.24, 1.18, and 2.15 mg/L. The regression equation for the comparison between an anion-exchange column method (y) and the LC-MS/MS method (x) was: y = 0.84x + 0.74 (S(y/x) = 5.8 mg/24 h; r = 0.85; n = 100). In 47 volunteers, PBG excretion was 0.02-0.42 mg/24 h, lower than reported reference intervals (up to 2.0 mg/24 h) based on colorimetric methods. In 85 samples with PBG < or =0.5 by LC-MS/MS, 8 (9.4%) had values > or =2.0 mg/24 h by the anion-exchange method (mean +/- SD, 4.3 +/- 1.8 mg/24 h). In 11 patients with confirmed diagnoses of acute porphyria and increased PBG by LC-MS/MS, 2 had values within the reported reference intervals by a quantitative anion-exchange method.


The quantitative LC-MS/MS method for PBG measurement exhibits greater analytical specificity and improved clinical sensitivity and specificity than currently available methods.

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