A high-sensitivity ultra-performance liquid-chromatography (UPLC) coupled with tandem mass spectrometric method was developed for simultaneous quantification and confirmation of triptolide in both zebrafish embryos and the aqueous-exposure solution on a tandem quadrupole mass spectrometer (TQ-MS). This was achieved by performing quantification using the multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) acquisition with simultaneous characterization of the MRM peak using product ion confirmation (PIC) acquisition as it elutes from the chromatographic system. Separation was achieved on a 1.7 µm C18 UPLC column using 0.1% formic acid water–acetonitrile mobile phase with a cycle time of 6 min. The linear range of 0.115–360 ng/mL, and lower limits of detection of 0.02 ng/mL and quantification of 0.064 ng/mL were established. This method was successfully applied to determine the time course of triptolide absorption by zebrafish embryos and the amount of triptolide remaining in the culture medium after administration of two triptolide dosages at three time points. This coupled MRM with PIC approach could provide both qualitative and quantitative results without the need for repetitive analyses. This resulted in the reduction of further confirmative experiments and analytical time, and ultimately increased laboratory productivity. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.