Background: The circulating level of the peptide hormone insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3) is a promising diagnostic marker reflecting Leydig cell function in the male. Few commercial immunoassays of varying quality exist. Therefore, we decided to develop and validate a precise method for quantification of INSL3 by mass spectrometry.
Methods: We developed an assay in which the INSL3 A-chain is released from the INSL3 A-B heterodimer by chemical reduction and alkylation. The alkylated INSL3 A-chain is quantitated by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), as substitute for serum INSL3. The method was compared to a validated and sensitive in-house serum INSL3 immunoassay using 97 serum samples from 12 healthy boys during pubertal transition. Adult levels were determined based on sera from 72 adult healthy males aged 18-40 years.
Results: An LC-MS/MS assay with limit of detection and limit of quantification (LOQ) of 0.06 and 0.15 ng/mL, respectively, and intra-assay CVs <9% in the relevant ranges was obtained. The LC-MS/MS compared well with the in-house immunoassay (Deming regression slope: 1.28; Pearson correlation: R=0.86). INSL3 concentrations increased with pubertal maturation in healthy boys. INSL3 concentrations were above the LOQ in all samples from the adult men. The mean (±2 SD range)for serum INSL3 concentrations in the adult men was 2.2 (0.5-3.9) ng/mL.
Conclusions: We have developed a robust and sensitive method suitable for quantitation of serum INSL3 in a clinical setting using LC-MS/MS instrumentation available in modern clinical laboratories. The method paves the way for future studies into the clinical role of serum INSL3 measurements.
Keywords: assay development; insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3); mass spectrometry.