Quantification of steroid hormones in human serum by liquid chromatography-high resolution tandem mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr A. 2017 Dec 1:1526:112-118. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2017.10.042. Epub 2017 Oct 18.


A limited specificity is inherent to immunoassays for steroid hormone analysis. To improve selectivity mass spectrometric analysis of steroid hormones by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) has been introduced in the clinical laboratory over the past years usually with low mass resolution triple-quadrupole instruments or more recently by high resolution mass spectrometry (HR-MS). Here we introduce liquid chromatography-high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/HR-MS) to further increase selectivity of steroid hormone quantification. Application of HR-MS demonstrates an enhanced selectivity compared to low mass resolution. Separation of isobaric interferences reduces background noise and avoids overestimation. Samples were prepared by automated liquid-liquid extraction with MTBE. The LC-MS/HR-MS method using a quadrupole-Orbitrap analyzer includes eight steroid hormones i.e. androstenedione, corticosterone, cortisol, cortisone, 11-deoxycortisol, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, progesterone, and testosterone. It has a run-time of 5.3min and was validated according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) guidelines. For most of the analytes coefficient of variation were 10% or lower and LOQs were determined significantly below 1ng/ml. Full product ion spectra including accurate masses substantiate compound identification by matching their masses and ratios with authentic standards. In summary, quantification of steroid hormones by LC-MS/HR-MS is applicable for clinical diagnostics and holds also promise for highly selective quantification of other small molecules.

Keywords: High resolution mass spectrometry; Increase of selectivity; Liquid chromatography; Orbitrap; Quantification; Steroid hormones.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Chemical Analysis / methods*
  • Chromatography, Liquid*
  • Humans
  • Limit of Detection
  • Liquid-Liquid Extraction
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Steroids / blood*
  • Steroids / isolation & purification
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Steroids