Ultra-low flow nanospray for the normalization of conventional liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry through equimolar response: standard-free quantitative estimation of metabolite levels in drug discovery

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2006;20(7):1087-96. doi: 10.1002/rcm.2414.


Nanospray experiments were performed on an ensemble of drug molecules and their commonly known metabolites to compare performance with conventional electrospray ionization (ESI) and to evaluate equimolar response capabilities. Codeine, dextromethorphan, tolbutamide, phenobarbital, cocaine, and morphine were analyzed along with their well-known metabolites that were formed via hydroxylation, dealkylation, hydrolysis, and glucuronidation. Nanospray exhibited a distinct trend toward equimolar response when flow rate was reduced from 25 nL/min to less than 10 nL/min. A more uniform response between the parent drug and the corresponding metabolites was obtained at flow rates of 10 nL/min or lower. The largest discrepancy was within +/-50% for plasma samples. Nanospray was used as a calibrator for conventional ESI liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) and normalization factors were applied to the quantitation of an acyl-glucuronide metabolite of a proprietary compound in rat plasma. A nanospray calibration method was developed with the standard curve of the parent drug to generate quantitative results for drug metabolites within +/-20% of that obtained with reference standards and conventional ESI. The nanospray method provides a practical solution for the quantitative estimation of drug metabolites in drug discovery when reference standards are not available.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Calibration / standards
  • Chromatography, Liquid / instrumentation*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Chromatography, Liquid / standards
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / instrumentation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Flow Injection Analysis / methods*
  • Flow Injection Analysis / standards
  • Microfluidics / instrumentation*
  • Microfluidics / methods
  • Microfluidics / standards
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation*
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Nanotechnology / standards
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Reference Values
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / instrumentation*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / standards


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations