High-throughput screening of protein binding by equilibrium dialysis combined with liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr A. 2006 Jan 13;1102(1-2):125-34. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2005.10.030. Epub 2005 Nov 2.


A new approach for screening plasma protein binding is presented. The method is based on equilibrium dialysis combined with rapid generic LC-MS bioanalysis by using a sample pooling approach enabling high-throughput screening of protein binding in the drug discovery phase. The method is evaluated by a comparison of measured unbound free fractions f(u) (%) between single and pooled compounds for a test set of structurally diverse compounds with a wide range of unbound fractions. Test compounds include 1 acidic and 10 basic drug standards along with 36 new chemical entities. A good correlation (R2>0.95) of f(u) (%) between the single and pooled compounds is found, suggesting that at least 10 compounds can be simultaneously measured with acceptable accuracy. A simplified drug-protein binding model is applied to calculate the f(u) (%) of drugs at various drug and protein concentrations and this is applied to elucidate the applicability of the sample pooling approach from a theoretical standpoint. Moreover, pH shifts in the plasma were observed after dialysis when using different types of buffers and the impact of that on the f(u) is illustrated in association with their physicochemical properties, in particular the ionization state of compounds by the profile of effective mobility as a function of pH. A new buffer is proposed being able to minimize the pH shift of plasma during the dialysis. In addition, the application of the proposed buffer does not necessarily require adjusting plasma pH before the dialysis and utilizing a CO2 incubator during the dialysis. The effect of the ionic strengths of different buffers on MS signals is investigated with regard to ion suppression. The sample pooling method not only significantly reduces the plasma volume required but also the number of bioanalysis samples as compared to the single compound measurements by a conventional approach. The new proposed approach is especially beneficial for measuring in vitro protein binding in matrices such as mouse plasma where plasma is available only in limited amounts. The current new development will facilitate the drug discovery process by more rapidly assessing the protein binding potential of drug candidates.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Buffers
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Dialysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Plasma
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats


  • Buffers
  • Proteins