Analytica chimica acta

Improving detection sensitivity of amino acids in thyroid tissues by using phthalic acid as a mobile phase additive in hydrophilic interaction chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry.

PMID 25819789


In this work, 0.08 mmol L(-1) of phthalic acid was introduced as a mobile phase additive to quantify free amino acids (AAs) by hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) coupled with electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS). The addition of phthalic acid significantly increased the signal intensity of protonated AA ions, resulting from the decrease of the relative abundance of AA sodium adducts. Meanwhile, the chromatographic peak shapes of AAs were optimized. As a consequence, there was a noticeable increase in the sensitivity of detection for AAs. The limits of detection (LOD) and quantification (LOQ) of the AAs ranged from 0.0500 to 20.0 ng mL(-1) and from 0.100 to 50.0 ng mL(-1), respectively, which were 4-50 times lower compared to the values measured without the addition of phthalic acid. The enhanced detection and separation of AAs were obtained by merely adding phthalic acid to the mobile phase without changing other conditions. Eventually, this simple method was validated and successfully applied to the analysis of twenty-four kinds of free AAs in human thyroid carcinoma and para-carcinoma tissues, demonstrating a significant increase of most AAs in thyroid carcinoma tissues (p<0.05).

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