Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry Method for the Measurement of Anandamide in Human Plasma

Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine, AEA) is an endocannabinoid present in human plasma that is associated with several physiological functions and disease states. Significant variability in AEA plasma concentrations have been reported between studies, because quantification of AEA is fraught with methodological difficulties. A rapid, highly sensitive, robust, specific and highly reproducible ultra high pressure liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) method is described here for the analysis of AEA in human plasma. This fully validated method using octa-deuterated AEA (AEA-d8) as an internal standard, represents an improvement over previous analyses in terms of run time (4 min), limit of detection (0.055 fmol on column, 18.75 fmol/mL plasma), precision (relative standard deviations of 3.7, 3.9 and 4.8% for 1.66, 6.65 and 133 fmol on column) and accuracy (97.5-104.5%). AEA analysis was linear over the range 0.23 to 19 nM (1.66 to 133 fmol on column). To demonstrate the usefulness of this method for the measurement of AEA levels in clinical samples, plasma obtained from female volunteers at different stages of the menstrual cycle and pregnant women were assayed. Plasma AEA concentrations were significantly (P=0.0078) lower in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle compared to the follicular phase. In pregnancy, the concentrations were lowest in the first and second trimesters with levels comparable to those observed in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and modestly increased in the third trimester. The highest plasma AEA levels were observed in women in active labour, and these were significantly (P=0.0147) higher than those observed in women at term but not in active labour. Post-menopausal women had AEA concentrations comparable to levels observed during the luteal phase of pre-menopausal women and were significantly (P=0.0389) lower than AEA plasma concentrations obtained during the follicular phase. The sensitivity and precision of the validated method described here suggests that this method is suitable for the analysis of AEA in clinical samples and may be utilised for the investigation of bio-matrices containing limited amounts of AEA.

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