Ionization of anabolic steroids by adduct formation in liquid chromatography electrospray mass spectrometry

J Mass Spectrom. 2007 Apr;42(4):497-516. doi: 10.1002/jms.1182.


The ionization of 46 anabolic steroids has been studied. The absence of basic or acidic moieties in most of these analytes makes their direct ionization as [M + H]+ by atmospheric pressure interfaces difficult. The formation of adducts with different components of the mobile phase has been found to be an efficient way to ionize anabolic steroids by electrospray. Different mobile phases using methanol (MeOH) or acetonitrile as organic solvent and HCOOH, Na+ or NH4+ as additives have been tested to favor the adduct formation. A direct correlation between the chemical structure of the anabolic steroid and the possibility to ionize it in a particular chromatographic condition has been found. According to their ionization, anabolic steroids can be divided into seven different groups depending on both the nature and the relative position of their functional groups. The formation of different adducts such as [M + Na + MeOH]+ or [M + H + CH3 CN - H2O]+ is required in order to ionize some of these groups and the optimal mobile phase composition for each group of anabolic steroids is proposed. Despite the ionization limitations due to their chemical structure, most of tested anabolic steroids could be ionized using the adduct formation approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Doping in Sports
  • Solvents
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Steroids / chemistry*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Solvents
  • Steroids