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J Chromatogr B Biomed Sci Appl. 1997 Oct 24;700(1-2):31-47.

Determination of endogenous levels of 13-cis-retinoic acid (isotretinoin), all-trans-retinoic acid (tretinoin) and their 4-oxo metabolites in human and animal plasma by high-performance liquid chromatography with automated column switching and ultraviolet detection.

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Pharmaceuticals Division, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, PRPK, Basel, Switzerland.


A highly sensitive HPLC method with automated column switching was developed for the simultaneous determination of endogenous levels of 13-cis-retinoic acid (isotretinoin), all-trans-retinoic acid (tretinoin) and their 4-oxo metabolites in plasma samples from man, Cynomolgus monkey, rabbit, rat and mouse. Plasma (0.4 ml) was deproteinated by adding ethanol (1.5 ml) containing the internal standard acitretin. After centrifugation, 1.4 ml of the supernatant were directly injected onto the precolumn packed with LiChrospher 100 RP-18 (5 microm). 1.25% ammonium acetate and acetic acid-ethanol (8:2, v/v) was used as mobile phase during injection and 1% ammonium acetate and 2% acetic acid-ethanol (102:4, v/v) was added, on-line, to decrease the elution strength of the injection solution. After backflush purging of the precolumn, the retained components were transferred to the analytical column in the backflush mode, separated by gradient elution and detected at 360 nm. Two coupled Superspher 100 RP-18 endcapped columns (both 250x4 mm) were used for the separation, together with a mobile phase consisting of acetonitrile-water-10% ammonium acetate-acetic acid: (A) 600:300:60:10 (v/v/v/v), (B) 950:20:5:20 (v/v/v/v), and (C) 990:5:0:5 (v/v/v/v). The method was linear in the range 0.3-100 ng/ml, at least, with a quantification limit of 0.3 ng/ml. The mean recoveries from human plasma were 93.2%-94.4% and the mean inter-assay precision was 2.8%-3.2% (range 0.3-100 ng/ml). Similar results were obtained for animal plasma. The analytes were found to be stable in the plasma of all investigated species stored at -20 degrees C for 4.3 months and at -80 degrees C for 9 months, at least. At this temperature, human plasma samples were even stable for 2 years. The method was successfully applied to more than 6000 human and 1000 animal plasma samples from clinical and toxicokinetic studies. Endogenous levels determined in control patients and pregnant women were similar to published data from volunteers.

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