A semiquantitative method for the determination of reactive metabolite conjugate levels in vitro utilizing liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and novel quaternary ammonium glutathione analogues

Chem Res Toxicol. 2006 Mar;19(3):480-90. doi: 10.1021/tx050303c.


An in vitro semiquantitative reactive metabolite detection assay is described that incorporates NADPH-supplemented human liver microsomes, a novel quaternary ammonium glutathione analogue conjugating agent (QA-GSH), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for detection. The assay was developed to have high sample capacity and the potential for high sample throughput. MS/MS detection is selective and sensitive for the QA-GSH conjugating agent and semiquantitation of QA-GSH-reactive metabolite conjugates is performed using QA-GSH standards added to samples prior to analysis [i.e., internal standards (ISs)]. The reactive metabolite trapping capability of the free thiol group in QA-GSH was assessed using model drugs acetaminophen, clozapine, and flutamide, which are bioactivated to afford reactive metabolites. MS signal responses of equimolar amounts of QA-GSH standards were compared to assess the feasibility of using a QA-GSH IS approach to semiquantify reactive metabolite levels in vitro. The full scan Q1 MS response for each standard was within 3.3-fold of one another even though the "parent" moiety structure of each QA-GSH conjugate standard differed significantly. Standard curve analysis using selected reaction monitoring for each QA-GSH standard gave slope values that differed by only 1.5-fold. The QA-GSH IS semiquantitation method was tested by determining the level of QA-GS-acetaminophen conjugate formation at three different concentrations of acetaminophen and comparing the results to those from linear regression of authentic standards. The calculated levels of conjugate formed compared closely with those calculated from linear regression data of authentic standard curves. These results show that the QA-GSH semiquantitation assay described herein is a viable method for semiquantitatively assessing the bioactivation potential in vitro and is well-suited for use in early drug discovery high throughput screening paradigms.

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / chemistry
  • Acetaminophen / metabolism
  • Biotransformation*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Clozapine / chemistry
  • Clozapine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Flutamide / chemistry
  • Flutamide / metabolism
  • Glutathione / analogs & derivatives
  • Glutathione / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Microsomes, Liver / metabolism
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization


  • Peptides
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Acetaminophen
  • Flutamide
  • Glutathione
  • Clozapine