Determination of phenolic metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in human urine as their pentafluorobenzyl ether derivatives using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

Anal Chem. 2007 Jan 15;79(2):587-98. doi: 10.1021/ac060920l.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous environmental contaminants, and a number of them are carcinogenic. One approach for measuring exposure to them is to determine the concentrations of metabolites in urine. The pyrene metabolite 1-hydroxypyrene has been used as a biomarker for exposure in numerous studies. However, determination of exposure to several PAHs may be advantageous, since the relative amounts may vary depending upon the exposure source. We developed a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method for the determination of phenolic metabolites of naphthalene, fluorene, phenanthrene, and pyrene in human urine. Following enzymatic cleavage of the glucuronide and sulfate conjugates, the phenolic metabolites are extracted from urine and converted to pentafluorobenzyl ethers. These derivatives greatly enhance the sensitivity of detection by atmospheric pressure chemical ionization in the negative ion mode. Lower limits of quantitation range from 0.01 to 0.5 ng/mL. Stable isotope-labeled internal standards were synthesized or obtained commercially. Data on urinary excretion of several PAH metabolites in urine of smokers and nonsmokers are presented.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Fluorobenzenes / urine*
  • Humans
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / metabolism*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smoking / urine
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Fluorobenzenes
  • Phenols
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons