Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are activated intracellularly to their triphosphate (TP) form, which compete with endogenous deoxynucleotide-triphosphates (dNTP) as substrate for HIV reverse transcriptase. The activity of NRTIs is thus described by the NRTI-TP-to-dNTP ratio in relevant cell types. Therefore, we developed an ion-pair (IP) LC-MS method for the simultaneous analysis of the mono-, di-, and TP forms of NRTIs and endogenous deoxynucleosides in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). The IP-LC method was applied on an IT mass spectrometer using the MS-mode as well as on a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer using the MS/MS mode. The MS/MS approach on the triple quadrupole mass spectrometer demonstrated the best clinical applicability due to its higher sensitivity. The LOD (minimum amount on column) were 25 fmol for the TP forms of zidovudine, lamivudine, and stavudine, as well as for their endogenous dNTP counterparts. The linearity (R(2) ) of the calibration curves were>0.99. The obtained LOD readily allow for clinical applications using just one million PBMC obtained from HIV-infected patients under therapy.
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