Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry methods for distinguishing N-oxides from hydroxylated compounds

Anal Chem. 2000 Mar 15;72(6):1352-9. doi: 10.1021/ac9911692.


This study describes the application of liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) methods for distinguishing between aliphatic and aromatic hydroxylations and between hydroxylations and N-oxidations. Hydroxylations and N-oxidations are common biotransformation reactions of drugs. Electrospray (ESI) and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) were used to generate ions from liquid chromatographic effluents. ESI-MS, ESI-MS/MS, APCI-MS, and APCI-MS/MS experiments were performed on several metabolites and derivatives of loratadine (a long-acting and nonsedating tricyclic antihistamine) using an ion trap mass spectrometer (LCQ) and a triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer (TSQ). The observations are as follows: (1) LC/ESI-MS produced predominantly [M + H]+ ions with minor fragmentation. (2) LC/ESI-MS/MS data, however, showed a predominant loss of water from metabolites with aliphatic hydroxylation while the loss of water was not favored when hydroxylation was phenolic. N-Oxides (aromatic and aliphatic) showed only a small amount of water loss in the MS/MS spectra. (3) Under LC/APCI-MS conditions, aliphatic hydroxylation could be readily distinguished from aromatic hydroxylation based on the extent of water loss. In addition, N-oxides produced distinct [M + H - O]+ ions. These [M + H - O]+ ions were not produced in the APCI-MS spectra of hydroxylated metabolites. (4) Similar to the ESI-MS/MS spectra, the APCI-MS/MS spectra from the (M + H)+ ions of N-oxides yielded a small amount of water loss but no [M + H - O]+ ions. These results indicate that LC/APCI-MS can be used to distinguish between hydroxylated metabolites and N-oxides.