Simultaneous determination of nicotine and eight nicotine metabolites in urine of smokers using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2002 Oct 5;778(1-2):251-61. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4347(01)00451-0.


A method based on liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MSMS) applying atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation (APCI) in the positive ion mode was developed for the direct determination of nicotine, cotinine, trans-3'-hydroxycotinine, their corresponding glucuronide conjugates as well as cotinine-N-oxide, norcotinine, and nicotine-N'-oxide in the urine of smokers. The assay involves filtration of crude urine, fast liquid chromatography on a reversed-phase column and mass-specific detection using MSMS transitions. Deuterium-labeled nicotine, cotinine, and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine were used as internal standards. Glucuronides used as reference material were either chemically (cotinine-N-glucuronide) or enzymatically synthesized (nicotine-N-glucuronide and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine-O-glucuronide). Precision for the major nicotine analytes at levels observable in urine of smokers was better than 10%. Accuracy expressed in recovery rates in urine matrix for nicotine, cotinine, trans-3'-hydroxycotinine, and cotinine-N-glucuronide ranged from 87 to 113%. Quantitative results for the three glucuronides in urine samples of 15 smokers were compared to an indirect method in which the aglycons were determined with gas chromatography and nitrogen-selective detection (GC-NPD) before and after enzymatic splitting of the conjugates. Good agreement was found for cotinine-N-glucuronide (coefficient of variation, CV: 9%) and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine-O-glucuronide (CV: 20%), whereas the accordance between both methods was moderate for nicotine-N-glucuronide (CV: 33%). The described LC-MSMS method allows the simultaneous determination of nicotine and eight of its major metabolites in urine of smokers with good precision and accuracy. Since the method requires a minimum of sample clean-up and a very short time for chromatography (3 min), it is suitable for determining the nicotine dose in large-scale human biomonitoring studies.

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Nicotine / urine*
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Smoking / urine*


  • Nicotine