Rapid quantification of bile acids and their conjugates in serum by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2009 Nov 15;877(30):3920-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2009.09.038. Epub 2009 Oct 2.


Beside their role as lipid solubilizers, bile acids (BAs) are increasingly appreciated as signaling factors. As ligands of G-protein coupled receptors and nuclear hormone receptors BAs control their own metabolism and act on lipid and energy metabolism. To study BA function in detail, it is necessary to use methods for their quantification covering the structural diversity of this group. Here we present a simple, sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method for the analysis of bile acid profiles in human plasma/serum. Protein precipitation was performed in the presence of stable-isotope labeled internal standards. In contrast to previous LC-MS/MS methods, we used a reversed-phase C18 column with 1.8microm particles and a gradient elution at basic pH. This allows base line separation of 18 bile acid species (free and conjugated) within 6.5min run time and a high sensitivity in negative ion mode with limits of detection below 10nmol/L. Quantification was achieved by standard addition and calibration lines were linear in the tested range up to 28micromol/L. Validation was performed according to FDA guidelines and overall imprecision was below 11% CV for all species. The developed LC-MS/MS method for bile acid quantification is characterized by simple sample preparation, baseline separation of isobaric species, a short analysis time and provides a valuable tool for both, routine diagnostics and the evaluation of BAs as diagnostic biomarkers in large clinical studies.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bile Acids and Salts / blood*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / chemistry
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Bile Acids and Salts