High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry for the Determination of Bile Acid Concentrations in Human Plasma

J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2010 Jan 1;878(1):51-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2009.11.019.


We report a sensitive and robust method to determine cholic acid (CA), chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA), deoxycholic acid (DCA), lithocholic acid (LCA), ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), and their taurine- and glycine-conjugate concentrations in human plasma using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Activated charcoal was utilized to prepare bile acid-free plasma, which served as the biological matrix for the preparation of standard and quality control samples. Plasma sample preparation involved solid-phase extraction. A total of 16 bile acids and 5 internal standards were separated on a reverse column by gradient elution and detected by tandem mass spectrometry in negative ion mode. The calibration curve was linear for all the bile acids over a range of 0.005-5micromol/L. The extraction recoveries for all the analytes fell in the range of 88-101%. Intra-day and inter-day coefficients of variation were all below 10%. A stability test showed that all the bile acids were stable in plasma for at least 6h at room temperature, at least three freeze-thaw cycles, in the -70 degrees C or -20 degrees C freezer for 2 months, and also in the reconstitution solution at 8 degrees C for 48h. Comparison of the matrix effect of bile acid-free plasma with that of real plasma indicated that the charcoal purification procedure did not affect the properties of charcoal-purified plasma as calibration matrix. This method has been used to determine the bile acid concentrations in more than 300 plasma samples from healthy individuals. In conclusion, this method is suitable for the simultaneous quantification of individual bile acids in human plasma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Charcoal
  • Cholic Acids / blood*
  • Cholic Acids / chemistry
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Drug Stability
  • Glycine / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Reference Standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Solid Phase Extraction
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Taurine / chemistry
  • Temperature


  • Cholic Acids
  • Charcoal
  • Taurine
  • Glycine