Isobaric metabolite interferences and the requirement for close examination of raw data in addition to stringent chromatographic separations in liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometric analysis of drugs in biological matrix



In addition to matrix effects, common interferences observed in liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) analyses can be caused by the response of drug-related metabolites to the multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) channel of a given drug, as a result of in-source reactions or decomposition of either phase I or II metabolites. However, it has been largely ignored that, for some drugs, metabolism can lead to the formation of isobaric or isomeric metabolites that exhibit the same MRM transitions as parent drugs. The present study describes two examples demonstrating that interference caused by isobaric or isomeric metabolites is a practical issue in analyzing biological samples by LC/MS/MS. In the first case, two sequential metabolic reactions, demethylation followed by oxidation of a primary alcohol moiety to a carboxylic acid, produced an isobaric metabolite that exhibits a MRM transition identical to the parent drug. Because the drug compound was rapidly metabolized in rats and completely disappeared in plasma samples, the isobaric metabolite appeared as a single peak in the total ion current (TIC) trace and could easily be quantified as the drug since it was eluted at a retention time very close to that of the drug in a 12-min LC run. In the second example, metabolism via the ring-opening of a substituted isoxazole moiety led to the formation of an isomeric product that showed an almost identical collision-induced dissociation (CID) MS spectrum as the original drug. Because two components were co-eluted, the isomeric product could be mistakenly quantified and reported by data processing software as the parent drug if the TIC trace was not carefully inspected. Nowadays, all LC/MS data are processed by computer software in a highly automated fashion, and some analysts may spend much less time to visually examine raw TIC traces than they used to do. Two examples described in this article remind us that quality data require both adequate chromatographic separations and close examination of raw data in LC/MS/MS analyses of drugs in biological matrix. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.