Endogenous levels of beta-carotene in human buccal mucosa cells by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography

J Chromatogr. 1990 Mar 16;526(1):47-58. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4347(00)82482-2.


We have developed a reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatographic assay for the measurement of low nanogram levels of beta-carotene in a single sample of human buccal mucosa cells. The method includes a simple sonification step for cell disruption and release of the compounds into the supernatant. The limits of detection were 0.02, 0.02 and 0.07 ng/mg of protein for beta-carotene, retinol and retinol palmitate, respectively. Two patient populations were analysed. Average endogenous levels for beta-carotene normalized to protein were 0.25 ng/mg of protein (range 0.04-1.9 ng/mg, twelve patients). No evidence of endogenous retinol or retinol palmitate could be detected in the human samples. An oral dosing study of four normal individuals showed a wide variation of beta-carotene uptake. This rapid and sensitive method will enable investigators to use the non-invasive technique of buccal mucosa cell harvesting to determine cellular depot levels of beta-carotene in various patient populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / analysis*
  • Carotenoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Cheek
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Diterpenes
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth Mucosa / analysis
  • Mouth Mucosa / cytology*
  • Retinyl Esters
  • Vitamin A / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin A / analysis


  • Diterpenes
  • Retinyl Esters
  • Vitamin A
  • retinol palmitate
  • Carotenoids