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J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2010 May 1;878(15-16):1098-102. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2010.03.020. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry assay for the quantification of free and total sialic acid in human cerebrospinal fluid.

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Department of Metabolic and Endocrine Diseases, University Medical Centre Utrecht, WKZ and Netherlands Metabolomics Centre, The Netherlands.



Analysis of sialic acid (SA) metabolites in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is important for clinical diagnosis. In the present study, a high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS/MS) method for free sialic acid (FSA) and total sialic acid (TSA) in human CSF was validated.


The method utilized a simple sample-preparation procedure of protein precipitation for FSA and acid hydrolysis for TSA. Negative electrospray ionisation was used to monitor the transitions m/z 308.2-->87.0 (SA) and m/z 311.2--> 90.0 ((13)C(3)-SA). Conjugated sialic acid (CSA) was calculated by subtracting FSA from TSA. We established reference intervals for FSA, TSA and CSA in CSF in 217 control subjects. The method has been applied to patients' samples with known differences in SA metabolites like meningitis (n=6), brain tumour (n=2), leukaemia (n=5), and Salla disease (n=1).


Limit of detection (LOD) was 0.54 microM for FSA and 0.45 mM for TSA. Intra- and inter-assay variation for FSA (21.8 microM) were 4.8% (n=10) and 10.4% (n=40) respectively. Intra- and inter-assay variation for TSA (35.6 microM) were 9.7% (n=10) and 12.8% (n=40) respectively. Tested patients showed values of TSA above established reference value.


The validated method allows sensitive and specific measurement of SA metabolites in CSF and can be applied for clinical diagnoses.

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