Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis of exhaled leukotriene B4 in asthmatic children

Paolo Montuschi, Simona Martello, Marialinda Felli, Chiara Mondino, Peter J. Barnes, Marcello Chiarotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The role of leukotriene (LT) B4, a potent inflammatory mediator, in atopic asthmatic and atopic non-asthmatic children is largely unknown. The lack of a gold standard technique for measuring LTB4 in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) has hampered its quantitative assessment in this biological fluid. We sought to measure LTB4 in EBC in atopic asthmatic children and atopic nonasthmatic children. Exhaled nitric oxide (NO) was measured as an independent marker of airway inflammation. Methods: Fifteen healthy children, 20 atopic non-asthmatic children, 25 steroid-naïve atopic asthmatic children, and 22 atopic asthmatic children receiving inhaled corticosteroids were studied. The study design was of cross-sectional type. Exhaled LTB4 concentrations were measured using liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry-mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) with a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer. Exhaled NO was measured by chemiluminescence with a single breath on-line method. LTB4 values were expressed as the total amount (in pg) of eicosanoid expired in the 15-minute breath test. Kruskal-Wallis test was used to compare groups. Results: Compared with healthy children [87.5 (82.5-102.5) pg, median and interquartile range], exhaled LTB4 was increased in steroid-naïve atopic asthmatic [255.1 (175.0-314.7) pg, p <0.001], but not in atopic non-asthmatic children [96.5 (87.3-102.5) pg, p = 0.59)]. Asthmatic children who were receiving inhaled corticosteroids had lower concentrations of exhaled LTB4 than steroid-naïve asthmatics [125.0 (25.0-245.0) pg vs 255.1 (175.0-314.7) pg, p <0.01, respectively]. Exhaled NO was higher in atopic nonasthmatic children [16.2 (13.5-22.4) ppb, p <0.05] and, to a greater extent, in atopic steroid-naïve asthmatic children [37.0 (31.7-57.6) ppb, p <0.001] than in healthy children [8.3 (6.1-9.9) ppb]. Compared with steroid-naïve asthmatic children, exhaled NO levels were reduced in asthmatic children who were receiving inhaled corticosteroids [15.9 (11.5-31.7) ppb, p <0.01]. Conclusions: In contrast to exhaled NO concentrations, exhaled LTB4 values are selectively elevated in steroid-naïve atopic asthmatic children, but not in atopic nonasthmatic children. Although placebo control studies are warranted, inhaled corticosteroids seem to reduce exhaled LTB4 in asthmatic children. LC/MS/MS analysis of exhaled LTB4 might provide a non-invasive, sensitive, and quantitative method for airway inflammation assessment in asthmatic children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119
JournalRespiratory Research
Publication statusPublished - Oct 19 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Medicine(all)


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