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Anal Chem. 2005 Mar 1;77(5):1448-57.

Strategy for the isolation, derivatization, chromatographic separation, and detection of carnitine and acylcarnitines.

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Medical Research Service, Louis Stokes Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


A strategy for detection of carnitine and acylcarnitines is introduced. This versatile system has four components: (1) isolation by protein precipitation/desalting and cation-exchange solid-phase extraction, (2) derivatization of carnitine and acylcarnitines with pentafluorophenacyl trifluoromethanesulfonate, (3) sequential ion-exchange/reversed-phase chromatography using a single non-end-capped C8 column, and (4) detection of carnitine and acylcarnitine pentafluorophenacyl esters using an ion trap mass spectrometer. Recovery of carnitine and acylcarnitines from the isolation procedure is 77-85%. Derivatization is rapid and complete with no evidence of acylcarnitine hydrolysis. Sequential ion-exchange/reversed-phase HPLC results in separation of reagent byproducts from derivatized carnitine and acylcarnitines, followed by reversed-phase separation of carnitine and acylcarnitine pentafluorophenacyl esters. Detection by MS/MS is highly selective, with carnitine pentafluorophenacyl ester yielding a strong product ion at m/z 311 and acylcarnitine pentafluorophenacyl ester fragmentation yielding two product ions: (1) loss of m/z 59 and (2) generation of an ion at m/z 293. To demonstrate this analytical strategy, phosphate buffered serum albumin was spiked with carnitine and 15 acylcarnitines and analyzed using the described protein precipitation/desalting and cation-exchange solid-phase extraction isolation, derivatization with pentafluorophenacyl trifluoromethanesulfonate, chromatography using the sequential ion-exchange/reversed-phase chromatography HPLC system, and detection by MS and MS/MS. Successful application of this strategy to the quantification of carnitine and acetylcarnitine in rat liver is shown.

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