Scientific reports

Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry platform for both small neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in blood, with automatic and robust solid phase extraction.

PMID 25791195


Neurons communicate via chemical signals called neurotransmitters (NTs). The numerous identified NTs can have very different physiochemical properties (solubility, charge, size etc.), so quantification of the various NT classes traditionally requires several analytical platforms/methodologies. We here report that a diverse range of NTs, e.g. peptides oxytocin and vasopressin, monoamines adrenaline and serotonin, and amino acid GABA, can be simultaneously identified/measured in small samples, using an analytical platform based on liquid chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-MS). The automated platform is cost-efficient as manual sample preparation steps and one-time-use equipment are kept to a minimum. Zwitter-ionic HILIC stationary phases were used for both on-line solid phase extraction (SPE) and liquid chromatography (capillary format, cLC). This approach enabled compounds from all NT classes to elute in small volumes producing sharp and symmetric signals, and allowing precise quantifications of small samples, demonstrated with whole blood (100 microliters per sample). An additional robustness-enhancing feature is automatic filtration/filter back-flushing (AFFL), allowing hundreds of samples to be analyzed without any parts needing replacement. The platform can be installed by simple modification of a conventional LC-MS system.