A systematic investigation to optimize simultaneous extraction and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry analysis of estrogens and their conjugated metabolites in milk

J Chromatogr A. 2010 Jul 16;1217(29):4784-95. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2010.05.024. Epub 2010 May 25.


In this study, the simultaneous extraction of estrone (E1), 17beta-estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), ethinylestradiol (EE2), and their glucuronated and sulfated metabolites in milk was optimized using solid-phase extraction (SPE). The aim of this research was to analyze estrogens and their conjugated metabolites by liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) in a single run, without the need to perform enzymatic cleavage and derivatization. Two SPE cartridges in tandem were used, consisting of sorbents based on the hydrophilic-lipophilic balance and amine-functionalized packing materials. To monitor analyte loss at every step of the SPE procedure (14)C-labeled E2 was spiked into the milk sample and the radioactivity was monitored at all stages of the SPE. In addition, non-radiolabeled standards of estrogens and metabolites were used to optimize solvent systems for the SPE and LC-MS/MS. The optimized method described in this paper can achieve recoveries ranging from 72% to 117% for the free estrogens (E1, E2, E3, and EE2), and 62% to 112% for seven conjugated metabolites. The three doubly conjugated, highly polar metabolites included in this study gave lower recoveries (< or = 43%) due to poor retention in SPE. Finally, commercial milk samples were analyzed for the presence of estrogens and their conjugated metabolites. Estrone (concentration range: 23-67 ng/L) was found to be the major free estrogen present in all milk samples. Estradiol was consistently observed in milk, but the concentrations were below the limit of detection (LOD of 10 ng/L), and no estriol and ethinylestradiol were detected. Several conjugated estrogen metabolites were identified, 17beta-estradiol-3-glucuronide (71-289 ng/L), estrone-3-sulfate (60-240 ng/L), 17beta-estradiol-3,17beta-sulfate (< LOD to 30 ng/L), and estrone-3-glucuronide (< LOQ of 25 ng/L). This method proved efficient in the simultaneous analysis of estrogens and their metabolites in milk.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Estrogens / analysis*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP) / analysis*
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP) / metabolism
  • Limit of Detection
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Solid Phase Extraction / methods*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Estrogens
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP)