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Optimisation of the separation of four major neutral glycosphingolipids: application to a rapid and simple detection of urinary globotriaosylceramide in Fabry disease.

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Groupe de Chimie Analytique du Sud de Paris, EA 3343, Laboratoire de Chimie Analytique, Faculté de Pharmacie, 92296 Châtenay-Malabry, Cedex, France.


A simple method for the separation of the four major neutral glycosphingolipids, present in all human tissue, was developed. This gradient normal phase-HPLC method utilises a polyvinyl alcohol bonded stationary phase and an evaporative light-scattering detection (ELSD). Screening pure solvents in a binary gradient elution mode allowed, in a first step, to assess the behaviour of the studied solutes and to select the solvents for further mobile phase optimisation. The proportion of the remaining solvents was defined to reach a maximal resolution. The reduction of the analysis time and the enhancement of the signal were obtained by optimising the gradient slope and the flow-rate. Optimal levels of triethylamine and formic acid (TEA-FA) for the enhancement of the evaporative light scattering detector response were established at 0.1% (v/v). Thus, the optimal conditions for the separation of the four glycosphingolipids was obtained with a gradient elution from a 100% chloroform to a 100% acetone:methanol (90:10 (v/v)) mobile phase at 0.2 ml min-1, using a 10% min-1 gradient slope. Finally, this method was applied to detect the excess of one of the neutral sphingolipids, namely globotriaosylceramide (Gb3) in the urine of patients affected with Fabry disease. A liquid-liquid extraction of the sediments obtained from an aliquot of only ten ml of urine proved sufficient to detect the excess of Gb3 present in both hemizygote and heterozygote patients. In all, the ability of our method to detect abnormal amounts of Gb3 in urinary sediments could allow the diagnosis of weakly symptomatic Fabry patients in large screening programs.

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