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Anal Chem. 2004 Oct 15;76(20):6012-6.

Detection and quantification of lanthanide complexes in cell lysates by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

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Laboratorio Integrato Metodologie Avanzate, Bioindustry Park Canavese, 10010 Colleretto Giacosa, Via Ribes 5, Italy.


Gadolinium (III) complexes are under intense scrutiny as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. Although currently used mainly as extracellular agents, there is a growing interest to exploit their contrast enhancing ability in the intracellular environment. To ascertain the preservation of their chemical integrity upon the intracellular entrapment, it is necessary to have a method for their dosage in the cell lysates. Herein, a mass spectrometric method for detection and quantification of gadolinium complexes in cell lysates is reported. The detection by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) was carried out by using a non-acidic matrix (2,4,6-trihydroxyacetophenone), which does not allow any leakage of gadolinium from the complex. Quantification has been possible by using as an internal standard an ytterbium complex with the same ligand of the analyte. Ytterbium was chosen because, among the lanthanides, it is the one with the isotopic distribution pattern the most similar to that of gadolinium. Sensitivity was enough to detect low micromolar quantities of a cationic complex and high micromolar quantities of a neutral complex in cell lysates of rat hepatoma cells. In the case of anionic complexes, sensitivity was too low for quantitative analysis. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report concerning the quantification of metal complexes by MALDI-TOF-MS.

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