Simultaneous quantification of four native estrogen hormones at trace levels in human cerebrospinal fluid using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

Hien P. Nguyen, Li Li, Joshua W. Gatson, David Maass, Jane G. Wigginton, James W. Simpkins, Kevin A. Schug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


Estrogens are known to exhibit neuroprotective effects on the brain. Their importance in this regard and in others has been emphasized in many recent studies, which increases the need to develop reliable analytical methods for the measurement of estrogen hormones. A heart-cutting two-dimensional liquid chromatography separation method coupled with electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) has been developed for simultaneous measurement of four estrogens, including estriol (E3), estrone (E1), 17β-estradiol (17β-E2), and 17α-estradiol (17α-E2), in human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The method was based on liquid-liquid extraction and derivatization of estrogens with dansyl chloride to enhance the sensitivity of ESI-based detection in conjunction with tandem mass spectrometry. Dansylated estriol and estrone were separated in the first dimension by an amide-C18 column, while dansylated 17β- and 17α-estradiol were resolved on the second dimension by two C18 columns (175 mm total length) connected in series. This is the first report of a method for simultaneous quantification of all four endogenous estrogen compounds in their dansylated form. The detection limits for E1, 17α-E2, 17β-E2, and E3 were 19, 35, 26, and 61 pg/mL, respectively. Due to matrix effects, validation and calibration was carried out in charcoal-stripped CSF. The precision and accuracy were more than 86% for the two E2 compounds and 79% for E1 and E3 while the extraction recovery ranged from 91% to 104%. The method was applied to measure estrogens obtained in a clinical setting, from the CSF of ischemic trauma patients. While 17β-estradiol was present at a significant level in the CSF of some samples, other estrogens were present at lower levels or were undetectable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)830-837
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 25 2011



  • Derivatization
  • Estrogen
  • Heart-cutting 2D LC
  • Human cerebrospinal fluid
  • MS/MS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Spectroscopy
  • Clinical Biochemistry

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