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Anal Chem. 2002 May 1;74(9):2034-40.

Validated quantitation of underivatized amino acids in human blood samples by volatile ion-pair reversed-phase liquid chromatography coupled to isotope dilution tandem mass spectrometry.

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Department of Chemistry, School of Life Science and Technology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, P R China.


Quantitation of amino acids in complex matrixes without derivatization is advantageous; however, difficulties exist in both the separation and the detection of those compounds. A validated method that is based on the use of volatile ion-pair liquid chromatography coupled to stable isotope dilution tandem mass spectrometry has been developed for the simple and accurate quantitation of underivatized amino acids in biological samples. Sufficient separation of 22 underivatized amino acids was achieved on a C18 column in 36 min using perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHA) and trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) as mobile phase modifiers. The collisionally activated dissociation spectra of the amino acids were investigated and the transitions of [M + H]+ --> [M + H - 46]+, which are specific to alpha-amino acids, were used for the detection of most amino acids and their stable isotopes. The calibration curves were linear over the range of 0.10-100 microg/mL, and the detection limits were 0.03-20 pmol on column. The quantitative results by this method were compared with those by an established OPA-derivatization HPLC method in the assay of 8 human serum samples, and better recovery and precision data of this method were observed. The method was also applied to the neonatal screening for phenylketonuria (PKU) with dry blood spots, and the results were satisfactory. This is the first time that all proteinogenic amino acids have been quantified directly from biological extracts without any kind of derivaization. The technique shows potential for routine determination of amino acids and analogous compounds in complex matrixes.

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