Strategies for the assessment of matrix effect in quantitative bioanalytical methods based on HPLC-MS/MS

Anal Chem. 2003 Jul 1;75(13):3019-30. doi: 10.1021/ac020361s.


In recent years, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with tandem mass spectrometric (MS/MS) detection has been demonstrated to be a powerful technique for the quantitative determination of drugs and metabolites in biological fluids. However, the common and early perception that utilization of HPLC-MS/MS practically guarantees selectivity is being challenged by a number of reported examples of lack of selectivity due to ion suppression or enhancement caused by the sample matrix and interferences from metabolites. In light of these serious method liabilities, questions about how to develop and validate reliable HPLC-MS/MS methods, especially for supporting long-term human pharmacokinetic studies, are being raised. The central issue is what experiments, in addition to the validation data usually provided for the conventional bioanalytical methods, need to be conducted to confirm HPLC-MS/MS assay selectivity and reliability. The current regulatory requirements include the need for the assessment and elimination of the matrix effect in the bioanalytical methods, but the experimental procedures necessary to assess the matrix effect are not detailed. Practical, experimental approaches for studying, identifying, and eliminating the effect of matrix on the results of quantitative analyses by HPLC-MS/MS are described in this paper. Using as an example a set of validation experiments performed for one of our investigational new drug candidates, the concepts of the quantitative assessment of the "absolute" versus "relative" matrix effect are introduced. In addition, experiments for the determination of, the "true" recovery of analytes using HPLC-MS/MS are described eliminating the uncertainty about the effect of matrix on the determination of this commonly measured method parameter. Determination of the matrix effect allows the assessment of the reliability and selectivity of an existing HPLC-MS/MS method. If the results of these studies are not satisfactory, the parameters determined may provide a guide to what changes in the method need to be made to improve assay selectivity. In addition, a direct comparison of the extent of the matrix effect using two different interfaces (a heated nebulizer, HN, and ion spray, ISP) under otherwise the same sample preparation and chromatographic conditions was made. It was demonstrated that, for the investigational drug under study, the matrix effect was clearly observed when ISP interface was utilized but it was absent when the HN interface was employed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Plasma / chemistry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity