A combined top-down and bottom-up LC-HRMS/MS method for the quantification of human growth hormone in plasma and serum

Sophia Krombholz, Andreas Thomas, Philippe Delahaut, Martin Bidlingmaier, Katharina Schilbach, Geoffrey Miller, Mario Thevis*

*Korrespondierende*r Autor*in für diese Arbeit

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungBegutachtung

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The precise and accurate quantification of human growth hormone (GH) in plasma/ serum is crucial for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like GH deficiency or acromegaly. However, the ligand-binding assays (LBAs) currently used for routine testing show considerable methodological variability. Here, we present a complementary, combined top-down and bottom-up LC-MS-based method to quantify (intact) GH in plasma and serum, which concurrently provides a basis for a MS-based analysis of GH in doping controls.

DESIGN: Extraction of GH from plasma/ serum was accomplished by protein precipitation, followed by an immunocapture step using protein A-coupled magnetic beads and a polyclonal anti-GH antibody. The intact protein was subsequently analyzed top-down on a 2D-LC-HRMS/MS system. In addition, sample extracts were digested with trypsin and analyzed for signal peptides corresponding to 'total', 22 kDa and 20 kDa GH (bottom-up). Both assays were validated according to current guidelines and compared to the GH isoform differential immunoassay used in routine doping control analysis. GH concentrations in serum samples of healthy adults, patients with acromegaly, and in samples obtained after administration of recombinant GH were analyzed as proof-of-principle.

RESULTS: The intact monomeric 22 kDa isoform of GH was selectively quantified in a representative working range of 0.5 to 10 ng/ml by top-down LC-HRMS/MS. Subsequent bottom-up analysis provided additional data on 'total' and 20 kDa GH. Top-down and bottom-up assay results for the 22 kDa isoform correlated well with the corresponding immunoassay results (R2 > 0.95). For a possible application of the method in an anti-doping context, the ratio between 22 kDa and 'total' GH was evaluated, indicating differences between the various donor groups, but only with limited significance.

CONCLUSION: The top-down and bottom-up LC-HRMS/MS method developed here presents a valuable tool for the quantification of GH in plasma/ serum complementary to established LBAs used at present in clinical measurements. Albeit the examination of the GH isoform proportions by the LC-MS method does not yet allow for the assessment of GH abuse, the obtained findings provide an important basis to enable LC-MS-based GH analysis of doping control samples in the future.

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