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J Lipid Res. 1983 Jan;24(1):83-93.

Separation and quantitation of free fatty acids and fatty acid methyl esters by reverse phase high pressure liquid chromatography.


Reverse phase high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) on octadecylsilyl columns separates mixtures of either free fatty acids or fatty acid methyl esters prepared from mammalian tissue phospholipids. Acetonitrile-water mixtures are used for the elution of esters. Aqueous phosphoric acid is substituted for water for the separation of the free acids. Unsaturated compounds are detected and quantitated by their absorption at 192 nm. Saturates are detected better at 205 nm. The order of elution of fatty acids in complex mixtures varies as a function of acetonitrile concentration. At any given concentration, some compounds overlap. However, by varying the solvent strength, any fatty acid of interest can be resolved including many geometrical and positional isomers. Methyl esters prefractionated according to unsaturation by argentation thin-layer chromatography (TLC) are rapidly and completely separated by elution with CH3CN alone. Argentation TLC-reverse phase HPLC can be used as an analytical as well as a preparative procedure. Octylsilyl columns are used for rapid resolution and improved detection of minor or low ultraviolet-absorbing components in the fractions. For example, monoenoic fatty acids with up to 32 carbons have been detected in bovine brain glycerophospholipids. Specific radioactivities of 3H- and 14C-labeled fatty acids and the distribution of radioactivity among acyl groups from complex lipids are measured. The method is not recommended for complete compositional analysis, but is useful for determinations of specific radioactivities during studies on turnover and metabolic conversions of labeled fatty acids.

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