Analytical chemistry

Detection of possible economically motivated adulterants in heparin sodium and low molecular weight heparins with a colorimetric microplate based assay.

PMID 21819047


Recently, we described a 96-well plate format assay for visual detection of oversulfated chondroitin sulfate A (OSCS) contamination in heparin samples based on a water-soluble cationic polythiophene polymer (3-(2-(N-(N'-methylimidazole))ethoxy)-4-methylthiophene (LPTP)) and heparinase digestion of heparin. Here, we establish the specificity of the LPTP/heparinase test with a unique set of reagents that define the structural requirements for significant LPTP chemosensor color change. For example, we observed a biphasic behavior of larger shifts to the red in the UV absorbance spectra with decreasing average molecular weight of heparin chains with a break below 12-mer chain lengths. In addition, the oversulfation of chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) to a partially (PSCS) or fully (OSCS) sulfated form caused progressively less red shift of LPTP solutions. Furthermore, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) containing glucuronic acid caused distinct spectral patterns compared to iduronic acid containing GAGs. We applied the LPTP/heparinase test to detection of OSCS (≥0.03% (w/w) visually or 0.01% using a plate reader) in 10 μg amounts of low molecular weight heparins (LMWHs; i.e. dalteparin, tinzaparin, or enoxaparin). Furthermore, because other oversulfated GAGs are possible economically motivated adulterants (EMAs) in heparin sodium, we tested the capacity of the LPTP/heparinase assay to detect oversulfated dermatan sulfate (OSDS), heparin (OSH), and heparan sulfate (OSHS). These potential EMAs were visually detectable at a level of ∼0.1% when spiked into heparin sodium. We conclude that the LPTP/heparinase test visually detects oversulfated GAGs in heparin sodium and LMWHs in a format potentially amenable to high-throughput screening.