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J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2007 Jun 1;852(1-2):22-34. Epub 2007 Jan 3.

Systematic and comprehensive strategy for reducing matrix effects in LC/MS/MS analyses.

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Chemistry Applied Technology, Waters Corporation, 34 Maple Street, Milford, MA 01757, USA.


A systematic, comprehensive strategy that optimizes sample preparation and chromatography to minimize matrix effects in bioanalytical LC/MS/MS assays was developed. Comparisons were made among several sample preparation methods, including protein precipitation (PPT), liquid-liquid extraction (LLE), pure cation exchange solid-phase extraction (SPE), reversed-phase SPE and mixed-mode SPE. The influence of mobile phase pH and gradient duration on the selectivity and sensitivity for both matrix components and basic analytes was investigated. Matrix effects and overall sensitivity and resolution between UPLC technology and HPLC were compared. The amount of specific matrix components, or class of matrix components, was measured in the sample preparation extracts by LC/MS/MS with electrospray ionization (ESI) using both precursor ion scanning mode and multiple reaction monitoring (MRM). PPT is the least effective sample preparation technique, often resulting in significant matrix effects due to the presence of many residual matrix components. Reversed-phase and pure cation exchange SPE methods resulted in cleaner extracts and reduced matrix effects compared to PPT. The cleanest extracts, however, were produced with polymeric mixed-mode SPE (both reversed-phase and ion exchange retention mechanisms). These mixed-mode sorbents dramatically reduced the levels of residual matrix components from biological samples, leading to significant reduction in matrix effects. LLE also provided clean final extracts. However, analyte recovery, particularly for polar analytes, was very low. Mobile phase pH was manipulated to alter the retention of basic compounds relative to phospholipids, whose retention tends to be relatively independent of pH. In addition to the expected resolution, speed and sensitivity benefits of UPLC technology, a paired t-test demonstrated a statistically significant improvement with respect to matrix effects when this technology was chosen over traditional HPLC. The combination of polymeric mixed-mode SPE, the appropriate mobile phase pH and UPLC technology provides significant advantages for reducing matrix effects resulting from plasma matrix components and in improving the ruggedness and sensitivity of bioanalytical methods.

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