A sensitive, simple and robust LC-MS/MS method for the simultaneous quantification of seven androgen- and estrogen-related steroids in postmenopausal serum

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Oct;144 Pt B:523-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2014.08.015. Epub 2014 Aug 23.


Steroids were first analyzed by immunoassay-based methods followed by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS or GC-MS/MS) with derivatization techniques since steroids are neutral and do not ionize at a high level using the electrospray ionization technique. We now report a validated liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method for the simultaneous quantification of seven steroidal compounds, i.e., estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), testosterone (Testo), dihydrotestosterone (DHT), androst-5-ene-3β, 17β-diol (5-diol), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione (4-dione). The system used is a UPLC-MS/MS (Qtrap 6500) system. With this method, the sample preparation is the combination of liquid-liquid extraction and a simple selective derivatization for only E1 and E2. This assay method is simple and practically eliminates potential contamination. Low quantification limits of 1pg/mL, 4pg/mL, 50pg/mL, 10pg/mL, 100pg/mL, 500pg/mL and 100pg/mL have been found, respectively for the steroids mentioned above. Without derivatization, DHT sensitivity can be as low as 4pg/mL with S/N≥5. A full validation has been performed for the seven compounds in compliance with GLP and FDA guidelines for bioanalytical method development and validation. Recovery of all seven compounds in unstripped serum is similar to that in stripped serum: 72.1-84.7% for E2, 83.6-94.5% for E1, 88.2-90.3% for Testo, 82.0-90.6% for DHT, 84.9-92.0% for 5-diol, 88.1-93.8% for DHEA and 86.2-90.3% for 4-dione, respectively. A good linearity is obtained with R>0.99 for each compound within its calibration range. Accuracies of all levels of QC are within the range of 15% for all seven compounds. The between day variation coefficients are 6.1-8.9% for the low limits of quantification of all seven compounds with 0.7-6.1% for higher levels of QCs for all seven compounds. All results of other test parameters similarly meet the acceptance criteria of EndoCeutics SOPs and FDA guidelines. By comparison of GC-MS/MS and LC-MS/MS data for six derivatized and nonderivatized free steroids, the present data show the crucial importance to use validated assays according to the FDA guidelines to increase specificity, precision and reliability of the absolute values associated with MS/MS-based assays. This method has already been applied to series of samples from clinical trials and is ready for wide clinical use.

Keywords: 17β-Diol; Androst-5- ene-3β; Androstenedione; Dehydroepiandrosterone; Dihydrotestosterone; Estradiol; Estrone; LC–MS/MS; Postmenopause; Sex steroids; Testosterone.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / blood*
  • Androstenediol / blood
  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dihydrotestosterone / blood
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrogens / blood*
  • Estrone / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postmenopause / blood*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Estrone
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Androstenediol