An LC-MS/MS method to profile urinary mercapturic acids, metabolites of electrophilic intermediates of occupational and environmental toxicants

Gianfranco Frigerio, Rosa Mercadante, Elisa Polledri, Pasquale Missineo, Laura Campo, Silvia Fustinoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Mercapturic acids are urinary metabolites of occupational and environmental toxicants. The aim of this work was to develop and validate an analytical assay for the determination of several urinary mercapturic acids to be used as biomarkers of exposure. Method: An isotope dilution tandem mass spectrometric method, coupled with reversed-phase liquid chromatography, was developed for the analysis of mercapturic acids derived from several compounds, including those of benzene, toluene, 1,3-butadiene, styrene, acrylonitrile, 4-chloronitrobenzene, acrylamide, acrolein, propylene oxide, N,N-dimethylformamide, crotonaldehyde, ethylene oxide, and methylating and ethylating agents. Samples were prepared by simple filtration after dilution. A validation was carried out, including the assessment of calibration curves, sensitivity, accuracy, precision, process efficiency, and stability, along with external verification. The assay was applied to the analysis of 14 end-of-shift urine samples from unexposed workers and gasoline station attendants. Results: The chromatographic run lasted 18 min. Limits of quantitation ranged from 0.01 to 3.2 μg/L; precision, expressed as relative standard deviation, ranged from 0.6 to 20.9%; and accuracy ranged from 93.4 to 114.9% of theoretical values. The use of deuterated internal standards was suitable for control of the matrix effect. The assay allowed the simultaneous quantitation of urinary mercapturic acids at different concentration ranges. The external verification exercise produced good results. The application of the assay to urine samples from workers revealed differences in mercapturic acid profiles in agreement with the expected patterns of exposure. Conclusion: This high-throughput method is valid and useful for the quantitation of urinary mercapturic acids, and is suitable for human biomonitoring of occupational and environmental exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chromatography B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Biomarker
  • Human exposure
  • LC-MS/MS
  • Urinary mercapturic acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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