Extractionless method for the simultaneous high-performance liquid chromatographic determination of urinary caffeine metabolites for N-acetyltransferase 2, cytochrome P450 1A2 and xanthine oxidase activity assessment

J Chromatogr B Biomed Sci Appl. 2001 May 5;755(1-2):73-84. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4347(00)00616-2.


Urinary metabolic ratios of caffeine are used in humans to assess the enzymatic activities of cytochrome P450 isoenzyme 1A2 (CYP1A2), xanthine oxidase (XO) and for phenotyping individuals for the bimodal N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2), all of them involved in the activation or detoxification of various xenobiotic compounds. Most reported analytical procedures for the measurement of the urinary metabolites of caffeine include a liquid-liquid extraction of urine samples prior to their analysis by reversed-phase HPLC. At neutral to basic pH however, 5-acetylamino-6-formylamino-3-methyluracil (AFMU), a metabolite of caffeine, spontaneously decomposes to 5-acetylamino-6-amino-3-methyluracil (AAMU). Since AAMU is not extracted in most organic solvents, the extent of AFMU decomposition cannot be precisely assessed. Although the decomposition reaction can be minimized by immediate acidification of the urine, accurate results can only be obtained when both AAMU and AFMU are monitored, or alternatively, if AAMU is measured after complete transformation of AFMU into AAMU in basic conditions. We report a liquid chromatographic method for the simultaneous quantitative analysis of the five urinary metabolites of caffeine used for the CYP1A2, XO and NAT2 phenotyping studies: AAMU, AFMU, 1-methylxanthine, 1-methyluric acid and 1,7-dimethyluric acid. These metabolites are satisfactory separated from all other known caffeine metabolites as well as endogenous urinary constituents. Sample treatment does not require any liquid-liquid extraction procedure. Urine samples are diluted and centrifuged before being injected (10 microl) onto a YMC-Pack Polyamine II (250x4.6 mm) column. A step-wise gradient elution program is applied using acetonitrile-0.75% (v/v) formic acid: (91:9) at 0 min-->(75:25) at 25 min-->(65:35) at 35 min-->(65:35) at 45 min, followed by a re-equilibration step to the initial solvent composition. The flow-rate is 1.0 ml/min and the separations are monitored by UV absorbance at 260 and 280 nm. The procedure described here represents a substantial improvement over previous methods: a single analysis and a minimal urine sample treatment enables the simultaneous quantitation of five caffeine metabolites, notably AFMU and AAMU, used for the determination of CYP450 1A2, XO and NAT2 enzyme activity. Importantly enough, phenotyping individuals for the bimodal NAT2 is made possible without the uncertainty associated with the deformylation of AFMU, which is likely to happen at all steps prior to the analysis, during sample storage and even in the bladder of the subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / analysis
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Caffeine / metabolism*
  • Caffeine / standards
  • Caffeine / urine
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A2 / analysis
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A2 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Chemical
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Uracil / analogs & derivatives
  • Uracil / urine
  • Xanthine Oxidase / analysis
  • Xanthine Oxidase / metabolism*


  • Caffeine
  • Uracil
  • 5-acetylamino-6-formylamino-3-methyluracil
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A2
  • Xanthine Oxidase
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • NAT2 protein, human
  • 5-acetylamino-6-amino-3-methyluracil