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Anal Chem. 2010 Sep 15;82(18):7706-12. doi: 10.1021/ac1015497.

Dansylation of unactivated alcohols for improved mass spectral sensitivity and application to analysis of cytochrome P450 oxidation products in tissue extracts.

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Department of Biochemistry and Center in Molecular Toxicology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 638 Robinson Research Building, 2200 Pierce Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-0146, USA.


Chemical derivatization is useful for improving the ionization characteristics of poorly or nonionizable analytes in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Dansyl chloride has been widely used as a derivatizing reagent for fluorescence detection and for facilitating the MS detection of phenols and amines, but not for general alcohols. A new dansylation method for improving the mass spectral sensitivity of unactivated alcohols was developed. The dansylated derivative was formed after incubation of the test compound cholesterol and excess dansyl chloride in CH(2)Cl(2) in the presence of 4-(dimethylamino)-pyridine (DMAP) plus N,N-diisopropylethylamine at 65 °C for 1 h, with an overall yield of 96%. The versatility of dansylation was investigated by utilizing representative lipid compounds (containing different numbers of hydroxy groups) for dansylation. All dansylated derivatives of the selected compounds were detected by LC-MS/MS in the electrospray ionization (ESI) positive ion mode. Validation of the method was established in terms of the sensitivity, stability, and repeatability of dansylation. The method was then applied to characterizing the P450 7A1 oxidation product (dansylated 7α-hydroxycholesterol) in human liver extracts using an LC-MS metabolomics/isotopic labeling approach (Tang, Z.; Guengerich, F. P. Anal. Chem. 2009, 81, 3071-3078). The dansylated derivative of the product was identified, with the signal increased by 10(3)-fold compared with a previous method (derivatization with succinic anhydride and ESI negative ion MS). Quantitation of testosterone in human liver extracts was also done as an example of the application of the dansylation method. Thus, dansylation is a potential method of modifying many alcohols for detection by fluorescence and LC-MS analysis.

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