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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32496. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032496. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Sample preparation and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for multiple steroids in mammalian and avian circulation.

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Department of Comparative Biology & Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Blood samples from wild mammals and birds are often limited in volume, allowing researchers to quantify only one or two steroids from a single sample by immunoassays. In addition, wildlife serum or plasma samples are often lipemic, necessitating stringent sample preparation. Here, we validated sample preparation for simultaneous liquid chromatography--tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) quantitation of cortisol, corticosterone, 11-deoxycortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), 17β-estradiol, progesterone, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and testosterone from diverse mammalian (7 species) and avian (5 species) samples. Using 100 µL of serum or plasma, we quantified (signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio ≥ 10) 4-7 steroids depending on the species and sample, without derivatization. Steroids were extracted from serum or plasma using automated solid-phase extraction where samples were loaded onto C18 columns, washed with water and hexane, and then eluted with ethyl acetate. Quantitation by LC-MS/MS was done in positive ion, multiple reaction-monitoring (MRM) mode with an atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) source and heated nebulizer (500°C). Deuterated steroids served as internal standards and run time was 15 minutes. Extraction recoveries were 87-101% for the 8 analytes, and all intra- and inter-run CVs were ≤ 8.25%. This quantitation method yields good recoveries with variable lipid-content samples, avoids antibody cross-reactivity issues, and delivers results for multiple steroids. Thus, this method can enrich datasets by providing simultaneous quantitation of multiple steroids, and allow researchers to reimagine the hypotheses that could be tested with their volume-limited, lipemic, wildlife samples.

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