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J Chromatogr A. 2006 May 26;1116(1-2):109-26. Epub 2006 Apr 21.

Secondary isotope effects in liquid chromatography behaviour of 2H and 3H labelled solutes and solvents.

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Service de Marquage Moléculaire et de Chimie Bio Organique, CEA/Saclay F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


The separation of solutes that differ only in the extent of isotopic substitution of their hydrogen atoms, using either mixtures of isotopically non-modified or perdeuterated solvents as mobile phases, is described. The occurrence of a secondary isotope effect is demonstrated in reversed-phase liquid chromatography, which is independent of the nature of the stationary phase (different octadecyl-bonded silicas, an embedded alkylamide-bonded silica, as well as one polymeric stationary phase were tested), and the water content and the nature of organic modifier of the mobile phase. The separation of 24 structurally different isotopologue pairs (apolar compounds and polar compounds with exchangeable or non-exchangeable hydrogen atoms) is examined using reversed-phase liquid chromatography. It is found that the greater the number of isotopically substituted hydrogen atoms in a given organic solute, the better is the separation of a particular isotopologue pair. The single secondary isotope effect is shown to be dependent on the number of isotopic substitutions. The greater the number of these substitutions, the smaller is the single isotope effect. The single secondary isotope effect is higher for aromatic hydrocarbons than for aliphatic hydrocarbons. A secondary isotope effect is also observed in chiral chromatography and normal-phase liquid chromatography, as well as on changing the nature of the substituting isotope, i.e.: tritium instead of deuterium. Thus, we have demonstrated that the total secondary isotopic effect for hydrogen/tritium is higher than for hydrogen/deuterium. This isotope effect involves only the consequences of changes in interactions due to nuclear motions. Overall this study confirms the predominance of hydrophobic effects in retention processes in reversed-phase liquid chromatography. In reversed-phase liquid chromatography, a secondary isotope effect related to mobile phase composition is also observed. The behaviour of deuterium oxide and water in mobile phases of the same composition (%, w/w) is compared. Independent of the nature of the organic modifier (methanol, acetonitrile or ethanol), the effect of replacing H2O with 2H2O in the mobile phase, is an increase in the retention factors and an improvement in the chromatographic resolution of isotopologue pairs. This increase in the resolution is not accompanied by a change in the chromatographic selectivity. The measurement of liquid-liquid extraction coefficients proves that the effect is mainly due to the modification of the phase ratio. In general the effect of 2H-labelled solvents (2H2O and C2H3CN) as mobile phase components, compared to their isotopically non-modified isomers, can be rationalized on the basis of their lower polarisabilities. Overall the use of perdeuterated rather than isotopically non-modified solvents as mobile phase components leads to the most efficient separation systems.

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