The development and application of a combined gas chromatography/thermal conversion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC/TC/IRMS) method for D/H ratio determination of endogenous urinary steroids are presented. The key element in sample preparation was the consecutive cleanup with high-performance liquid chromatography of initially native and subsequently acetylated steroids. This strategy enabled sufficient cleanup off all target analytes for determination of their respective D/H values. Ten steroids (11beta-hydroxyandrosterone, 5alpha-androst-16-en-3alpha-ol, pregnanediol, androsterone, etiocholanolone, testosterone, epitestosterone, 5alpha-androstan-3alpha,17beta-diol, 5beta-androstan-3alpha,17beta-diol and dehydroepiandrosterone) were measured from a single urine specimen. Depending on the biological background, the determination limit for all steroids ranged from 10 to 15 ng/mL for a 20 mL specimen. The method was validated by application of linear mixing models on each steroid and covered repeatability and reproducibility. The specificity of the procedure was ensured by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis of the sample using equivalent chromatographic conditions to those employed in the GC/TC/IRMS measurement. Within the sample preparation, no isotopic fractionation was observed, and no amount-dependent shift of the D/H ratios during the measurement was noticed. Possible memory effects occurring during IRMS measurements were corrected by applying a simple rule of proportion. In order to determine the naturally occurring D/H ratios of all implemented steroids, a population of 18 male subjects was analyzed. Relevant mean Delta values among selected steroids were calculated which allowed us to study the metabolic pathways and production sites of all the implemented steroids with additional consideration of the corresponding (13)C/(12)C ratios.
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