Coenzyme Q10 (Q10) is present in the circulation mainly in its reduced form (ubiquinol-10; UL10), but oxidizes quickly ex vivo to ubiquinone-10 (UN10). Therefore, native UL10:UN10 ratios, used as markers of redox status and disease risk, are difficult to measure. We established an RP-(U)HPLC method with coulometric detection to measure natively circulating UL10 and UN10 concentrations by adding a ubiquinol/ubiquinone mixture as an internal standard immediately after plasma preparation. This allowed adjustment for unavoidable artificial UL10 oxidation as well as for total losses (or gains) of analytes during sample storage, processing, and analysis because the internal standards exactly paralleled the chemical behavior of Q10. This technique applied to blood (n = 13) revealed Q10 levels of 680-3300 nM with a mean UL10:UN10 ratio of 95:5, which was inversely associated with total Q10 (r=-0.69; p=0.004). The oxidation of UL10 to UN10 was equimolar, increased by O(2), and decreased by lower temperatures or various degassing methods. Although UL10 was stable in blood or when pure in organic solvents at 22 degrees C, its oxidation was catalyzed dose dependently by alpha-tocopherol and butylated hydroxytoluene, particularly when present in combination. Key structural features for the catalytic pro-oxidant properties of phenolic antioxidants included two substituents vicinal to the phenolic hydroxyl group.
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