Collision-induced dissociation pathways of anabolic steroids by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2006 Apr;17(4):477-489. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2005.11.021. Epub 2006 Feb 17.


Anabolic steroids are structurally similar compounds, and their product-ion spectra obtained by tandem mass spectrometry under electrospray ionization conditions are quite difficult to interpret because of poly-ring structures and lack of a charge-retaining center in their chemical structures. In the present study, the fragmentation of nine anabolic steroids of interest to the racing industry was investigated by using triple quadrupole mass spectrometer, Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometer, and a linear ion trap instrument. With the aid of an expert system software (Mass Frontier version 3.0), accurate mass measurements, and multiple stage tandem mass spectrometric (MS(n)) experiments, fragmentation pathways were elucidated for boldenone, methandrostenolone, tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), trenbolone, normethandrolone and mibolerone. Small differences in the chemical structures of the steroids, such as an additional double-bond or a methyl group, result in significantly different fragmentation pathways. The fragmentation pathways proposed in this paper allow interpretation of major product ions of other anabolic steroids reported by other researchers in a recent publication. The proposed fragmentation pathways are helpful for characterization of new steroids. The approach used in this study for elucidation of the fragmentation pathways is helpful in interpretation of complicated product-ion spectra of other compounds, drugs and their metabolites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / analysis
  • Anabolic Agents / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Steroids / analysis
  • Steroids / chemistry*


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Steroids