Turinabol (4-chloro-17alpha-methyl-17beta-hydroxy-1,4-androstadien-3-one) is a synthetic oral anabolic androgenic steroid. As in the case of other anabolic steroids, it is a prohibited substance in equine sports. The metabolism of turinabol in human has been reported previously; however, little is known about its metabolic fate in horses. This paper describes the studies of both the in vitro and in vivo metabolism of turinabol in racehorses with an objective to identify the most appropriate target metabolites for detecting turinabol administration. For the in vitro studies, turinabol was incubated with fresh horse liver microsomes. Metabolites in the incubation mixture were isolated by liquid-liquid extraction and analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) after trimethylsilylation. The results showed that the major biotransformation of turinabol was hydroxylation at the C6, C16 and C20 sites to give metabolites 6beta-hydroxyturinabol (M1), 20-hydroxyturinabol (M2), two stereoisomers of 6beta,16-dihydroxyturinabol (M3a, M3b) and 6beta,20-dihydroxyturinabol (M4). The metabolite 6beta-hydroxyturinabol was confirmed using an authentic reference standard. The structures of all other turinabol metabolites were tentatively identified by mass spectral interpretation. For the in vivo studies, two horses were administered orally with turinabol. Pre- and post-administration urine samples were collected for analysis. Free and conjugated metabolites were isolated using solid-phase extraction and analysed by GC-MS as described for the in vitro studies. The results revealed that turinabol was extensively metabolised and the parent drug was not detected in urine. Two metabolites detected in the in vitro studies, namely 20-hydroxyturinabol and 6beta,20-dihydroxyturinabol, these were also detected in post-administration urine samples. In addition, 17-epi-turinabol (M5) and six other metabolites (M6a-M6c and M7a-M7c), derived from D-ring hydroxylation and A-ring reduction, were also detected. Except for 17-epi-turinabol, none of these metabolites has ever been reported in any species. All in vivo metabolites were detected within 48 h after administration.
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