Probing for the presence of semenogelin in human urine by immunological and chromatographic: mass spectrometric methods in the context of sports drug testing

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Rationale: An increasing number of adverse analytical findings (AAFs) in routine doping controls has been suspected and debated to presumably result from intimate contact with bodily fluids (including ejaculate), potentially facilitating the transfer of prohibited substances. More precisely, the possibility of prohibited drugs being present in ejaculate and introduced by sexual intercourse into the vagina of an athlete and, subsequently, into doping control urine samples, was discussed.
Methods: Two testing strategies to determine trace amounts of semenogelin I, a major and specific constituent of semen, were assessed as to their applicability to urine samples. First, the testing protocol of a lateral flow immunochromatographic test directed against semenogelin was adapted. Second, a liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based method was established, employing solid-phase extraction of urine, trypsinization of the retained protein content, and subsequent detection of semenogelin I-specific peptides. Sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility, but also recovery, linearity, precision, and identification capability of the approaches were assessed. Both assays were used to determine the analyte stability in urine (at 3 µL/mL) at room temperature, +4°C, and -20°C, and authentic urine samples collected either after (self-reported) celibacy or sexual intercourse were subjected to the established assays for proof-of-concept.
Results: No signals for semenogelin were observed in either assay when analyzing blank urine specimens, demonstrating the methods? specificity. Limits of detection were estimated with 1 µL and 10 nL of ejaculate per mL of urine for the immunochromatographic and the mass spectrometric approach, respectively, and figures of merit for the latter assay further included intra- and interday imprecision (4.5-10.7% and 3.8-21.6%), recovery (44%), and linearity within the working range of 0-100 nL/mL. Spiked urine tested positive for semenogelin under all storage conditions up to 12 weeks, and specimens collected after sexual intercourse were found to contain trace amounts of semenogelin up to 55-72 h.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnalytical Science Advances
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 02.2022

Research areas and keywords

  • contamination
  • doping
  • mass spectrometry
  • semen
  • sports


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