Pharmacokinetics of Phosphatidylethanol 16:0/20:4 in Human Blood After Alcohol Intake

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2018 Nov;42(11):2094-2099. doi: 10.1111/acer.13865. Epub 2018 Aug 26.


Background: The purpose of this study was to characterize the pharmacokinetics of the phosphatidylethanol (PEth) 16:0/20:4 homolog in uncoagulated human blood samples taken from 18 participants in a clinical laboratory setting after consumption of 2 standard doses of ethanol (EtOH).

Methods: Male and female participants received either 0.4 or 0.8 g/kg oral doses of EtOH during a 15-minute period. Blood samples were collected before and throughout 6 hours immediately after alcohol administration and then again at days 2, 4, 7, 11, and 14 of the follow-up period. PEth 16:0/20:4 levels were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry detection.

Results: (i) The increase in PEth 16:0/20:4 from baseline to maximum concentration was less than that of PEth 16:0/18:1 or PEth 16:0/18:2 homologs during the 6-hour period after EtOH administration; (ii) the mean half-life of PEth 16:0/20:4 was 2.1 ± 3 (SD) days, which was shorter than the mean half-life of either PEth 16:0/18:1 or PEth 16:0/18:2, 7.6 ± 3 (SD) or 6.8 ± 4 (SD) days, respectively.

Conclusions: The pharmacokinetics of PEth 16:0/20:4 in whole blood samples is detectable after alcohol consumption and differs in amount synthesized and rate of elimination versus PEth 16:0/18:1 and 16:0/18:2. Measuring the concentrations of these 3 homologs has the potential to provide more information about the amount and time frame of alcohol consumption than any one alone.

Keywords: Alcohol; Blood; High-Performance Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry; Pharmacokinetics; Phosphatidylethanol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Glycerophospholipids / blood*
  • Glycerophospholipids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • phosphatidylethanol
  • Ethanol