Monitoring phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors using liquid chromatography/(tandem) mass spectrometry in sports drug testing

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RATIONALE: The recent discovery of resveratrol's capability to inhibit cAMP-specific phosphodiesterases (PDEs) and, as a consequence, to enhance particularly the activity of Sirt1 in animal models has reinforced the interest of preventive doping research organizations, especially in PDE4 inhibitors. Among these, the archetypical PDE4-inhibitor rolipram significantly increased the number of mitochondria in laboratory rodents, which further demonstrated a performance increase in a treadmill-test (time-to-exhaustion) of approximately 40%. Besides rolipram, a variety of new PDE4-inhibiting substances including cilomilast, roflumilast, and numerous additional new drug entities were described, with roflumilast being the first-in-class having received clinical approval for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Due to the availability of these substances, and the fact that a misuse of such compounds in sport cannot be excluded, it deems relevant to probe for the prevalence of these compounds in sports drug testing programs.

METHODS: Known urinary phase-I metabolites of rolipram, roflumilast, and cilomilast were generated by in vitro incubations employing human liver microsomal preparations. The metabolites obtained were studied by liquid chromatography with high-resolution/high-accuracy tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) and the reference product ion mass spectra of established and most relevant metabolites were utilized to provide the information necessary for comprehensive doping controls. The analytical procedure was based on conventional routine doping control assays employing enzymatic hydrolysis followed by liquid-liquid extraction and subsequent LC/MS/MS measurement.

RESULTS: Structures of diagnostic product ions and dissociation pathways of target analytes were elucidated, providing the information required for implementation into an existing test method for routine sports drug testing. The established method allowed for detection limits for the intact drugs of 1-5 ng/mL, and further assay characteristics (intraday precision 1.5-13.7%, interday precision 7.3-18.6%, recovery 20-100%, ion suppression/enhancement, and specificity) were determined. In addition, proof-of-concept analyses concerning roflumilast were conducted with a urine sample obtained from a COPD patient under roflumilast treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRapid communications in mass spectrometry : RCM
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)993-1004
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15.05.2013

Research areas and keywords

  • Aminopyridines
  • Benzamides
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids
  • Cyclopropanes
  • Humans
  • Limit of Detection
  • Nitriles
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors
  • Rolipram
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


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