Nitisinone (2-(2-nitro-4-trifluoromethylbenzoyl)-1,3-cyclohexanedione, NTBC) was the first synthetically produced triketone herbicide. However, its unsatisfactory herbicidal properties, negative impact on the natural environment and the high cost of synthesis have hindered its commercialization as a plant protection agent. Nevertheless, NTBC has become the medical treatment of choice for a rare hereditary metabolic disease -hepatorenal tyrosinemia. Literature review shows that most research on nitisinone focuses on its medical applications, while there are neither in-depth studies of its stability nor its degradation pathways. Therefore, the aim of our study was to employ liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to determine the stability of NTBC in different experimental conditions (pH of solution, temperature, time of incubation, ultraviolet radiation), identify its degradation products and determine the stability of the latter. Electrospray ionization (ESI) in the negative ion mode was used as an ionization method and the analytes were detected by multiple reaction monitoring. We show that nitisinone stability increases with increasing pH of the solution. At pH similar to that of gastric juice in the human stomach, two major products of NTBC degradation are formed: 2-amino-4-(trifluoromethyl)benzoic acid (ATFA) and 2-nitro-4-(trifluoromethyl)benzoic acid (NTFA), which show considerable stability under studied conditions. The results of these studies shed new light on the properties of NTBC, therefore contributing to better understanding of possible risks and benefits of its medical application.
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