Alternate strategies to obtain mass balance without the use of radiolabeled compounds: application of quantitative fluorine (19F) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in metabolism studies

Chem Res Toxicol. 2012 Mar 19;25(3):572-83. doi: 10.1021/tx2005629. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is playing an increasingly important role in the quantitation of small and large molecules. Recently, we demonstrated that (1)H NMR could be used to quantitate drug metabolites isolated in submilligram quantities from biological sources. It was shown that these metabolites, once quantitated by NMR, were suitable to be used as reference standards in quantitative LC/MS-based assays, hence circumventing the need for radiolabeled material or synthetic standards to obtain plasma exposure estimates in humans and preclinical species. The quantitative capabilities of high-field NMR is further demonstrated in the current study by obtaining the mass balance of fluorinated compounds using (19)F-NMR. Two fluorinated compounds which were radio-labeled with carbon-14 on metabolically stable positions were dosed in rats and urine and feces collected. The mass balance of the compounds was obtained initially by counting the radioactivity present in each sample. Subsequently, the same sets of samples were analyzed by (19)F-NMR, and the concentrations determined by this method were compared with data obtained using radioactivity counting. It was shown that the two methods produced comparable values. To demonstrate the value of this analytical technique in drug discovery, a fluorinated compound was dosed intravenously in dogs and feces and urine collected. Initial profiling of samples showed that this compound was excreted mainly unchanged in feces, and hence, an estimate of mass balance was obtained using (19)F-NMR. The data obtained by this method was confirmed by additional quantitative studies using mass spectrometry. Hence cross-validations of the quantitative (19)F-NMR method by radioactivity counting and mass spectrometric analysis were demonstrated in this study. A strategy outlining the use of fluorinated compounds in conjunction with (19)F-NMR to understand their routes of excretion or mass balance in animals is proposed. These studies demonstrate that quantitative (19)F-NMR could be used as an alternate technique to obtain an estimate of the mass balance of fluorinated compounds, especially in early drug development where attrition of the compounds is high, and cost savings could be realized through the use of such a technique rather than employing radioactive compounds. The potential application of qNMR in conducting early human ADME studies with fluorinated compounds is also discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Dogs
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Fluorine Compounds / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fluorine Compounds / urine
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Fluorine Compounds
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes