Determination of boswellic acids in brain and plasma by high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry

Anal Chem. 2005 Oct 15;77(20):6640-5. doi: 10.1021/ac0506478.


Peritumoral edema, one of the major causes for neurological disorders in brain tumor patients, is mainly treated with steroids, which unfortunately have significant side effects and interfere with the efficacy of chemotherapy. Boswellic acids, the main active ingredients of Boswellia serrata, are antiinflammatory agents, inhibiting 5-lipoxygenase, the key enzyme of leukotriene biosynthesis and one of the pathophysiological mechanisms of peritumoral edema. Based on positive results in clinical trials and animal studies, B. serrata resin dry extract was designated an orphan drug by the European Commission for the treatment of peritumoral edema resulting from brain tumors. Thus boswellic acids may be alternative drugs to corticosteroids. However, the question of the availability of boswellic acids in brain has not been addressed until now. Accordingly, a highly sensitive LC/MS method has been developed for the simultaneous determination of KBA and AKBA, the most potent boswellic acids, in plasma and brain. This method involves matrix-assisted liquid-liquid extraction on Extrelut NT followed by separation on reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry detection using atmospheric pressure chemical ionization. Excellent linearity was obtained for the entire calibration range from 5 to 1500 ng/mL KBA and AKBA in plasma and 5 to 1000 ng/mL KBA and AKBA in brain. Validation assays of the lower limit of quantification as well as for the intra- and interday precision and accuracy met the international acceptance criteria for bioanalytical method validation. Moreover, the interchangeability of calibration curves generated in pork and rat brain homogenates could be demonstrated. Using the developed analytical method, KBA and AKBA could be detected for the first time in brain up to a concentration of 99 and 95 ng/g of brain, respectively, 3 h after the single oral administration of 240 mg/kg of dry B. serrata resin extract to Wistar rats. The developed method represents an appropriate tool to further study the time-dependent distribution of KBA and AKBA in plasma and brain as well as the absolute brain concentration after multiple doses and contributes thus to the optimization of the dosage regimen and to a better understanding of the therapeutic effects of B. serrata.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Female
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Plasma
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Triterpenes / chemistry*


  • Triterpenes
  • boswellic acid