Rapid screening and confirmation of drugs and toxic compounds in biological specimens using liquid chromatography/ion trap tandem mass spectrometry and automated library search

Hsiu Chuan Liu, Ray H. Liu, Dong Liang Lin, Hsiu O. Ho

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43 Citations (Scopus)


Recent advances in liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) technology have provided an opportunity for the development of more specific approaches to achieve the 'screen' and 'confirmation' goals in a single analytical step. For this purpose, this study adapts the electrospray ionization ion trap LC/MS/MS instrumentation (LC/ESI-MS/MS) for the screening and confirmation of over 800 drugs and toxic compounds in biological specimens. Liquid-liquid and solid-phase extraction protocols were coupled to LC/ESI-MS/MS using a 1.8-mm particle size analytical column operated at 50-C. Gradient elution of the analytes was conducted using a solvent system composed of methanol and water containing 0.1% formic acid. Positive-ion ESI-MS/MS spectra and retention times for each of the 800 drugs and toxic compounds were first established using 1-10 mg/mL standard solutions. This spectra and retention time information was then transferred to the library and searched by the identification algorithm for the confirmation of compounds found in test specimens -based on retention time matches and scores of fit, reverse fit, and purity resulting from the searching process. The established method was found highly effective when applied to the analyses of postmortem specimens (blood, urine, and hair) and external proficiency test samples provided by the College of American Pathology (CAP). The development of this approach has significantly improved the efficiency of our routine laboratory operation that was based on a two-step (immunoassay and GC/MS) approach in the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-84
Number of pages10
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2010


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Spectroscopy
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

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