Neurochemical analysis of amino acids, polyamines and carboxylic acids: GC-MS quantitation of tBDMS derivatives using ammonia positive chemical ionization

Paul L. Wood*, M. Amin Khan, Joseph R. Moskal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The GC-MS quantitation of a large number of neurochemicals utilizing a single derivatization step is not common but is provided by the reagent N-(tert-butyldimethylsilyl)-N-methyltrifluro-acetamide (MTBSTFA). Previous workers have utilized this derivative for GC-MS analyses of amino acids, carboxylic acids and urea with electron impact (EI) and with positive chemical ionization (PCI; methane as reagent gas). However, these conditions yield significant fragmentation, decreasing sensitivity and in some cases reducing specificity for quantitation with selected ion monitoring (SIM). Additionally, the majority of studies have used a single internal standard to quantitate many compounds. In this study we demonstrate that using isotopic dilution combined with ammonia as the reagent gas for PCI analyses, results in high precision and sensitivity in analyzing complex neurochemical mixes. We also demonstrate for the first time the utility of this derivative for the analysis of brain polyamines and the dipeptide cysteinyl glycine. In the case of ammonia as the reagent gas, all amino acids, polyamines and urea yielded strong [MH] + ions with little or no fragmentation. In the case of carboxylic acids, [M + 18] + ions predominated but [MH] + ions were also noted. This approach was used to analyze superfusates from hippocampal brain slices and brain tissue extracts from brain lesion studies. The advantages of this methodology include: (i) simple sample preparation; (ii) a single derivatization step; (iii) direct GC-MS analysis of the reaction mix; (iv) high precision as a result of isotopic dilution analyses; (v) high sensitivity and specificity as a result of strong [MH] + ions with ammonia reagent gas; (vi) no hydrolysis of glutamine to glutamate or asparagine to aspartate; and (vii) applicability to a wide range of neurochemicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-319
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chromatography B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2 2006


  • Amino acid release
  • Amino acids
  • Ammonia PCI
  • Dipeptides
  • GC-MS
  • Polyamines
  • Sulfur amino acids
  • Trimethyl tin
  • Urea
  • tBDMS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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