Improving the LC-MS/MS analysis of neuromedin U-8 and neuromedin S by minimizing their adsorption behavior and optimizing UHPLC and MS parameters

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Neuromedin U (NmU) and neuromedin S (NmS) are two closely related neuropeptides belonging to the neuromedin family. NmU usually occurs either as a truncated eight amino acid long peptide (NmU-8) or as an 25 amino acid long peptide, although other molecular forms exist depending on the species considered. NmS, on the other hand, is a 36 amino acid long peptide, sharing the same amidated C-terminal heptapeptide with NmU. Nowadays, liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is the preferred analytical technique for peptide quantification, because of its excellent sensitivity and selectivity. However, reaching the required quantification limits for these compounds in biological samples remains an extremely challenging task, especially because of their nonspecific binding (NSB). This study highlights the difficulties that are faced when quantifying larger neuropeptides (23-36 amino acids) compared to smaller ones (< 15 amino acids). The first part of this work aims to solve the adsorption problem for NmU-8 and NmS, by investigating the different steps involved in the sample preparation, i.e. the different solvents applied and the pipetting protocol. The addition of 0.05% plasma as an adsorption competitor was found to be primordial to avoid peptide loss due to NSB. The second part of this work focusses on further improving the sensitivity of the LC-MS/MS method for NmU-8 and NmS, by evaluating some UHPLC-parameters, including the stationary phase, the column temperature and the trapping conditions. For both peptides of interest, the best results were achieved when combining a C18 trap column with a C18 iKey separation device containing a positively charged surface. Column temperatures of 35 and 45 °C for NmU-8 and NmS respectively, resulted in the highest peak areas and S/N ratios, while applying higher column temperatures substantially decreased sensitivity. Moreover, a gradient starting at 20% organic modifier instead of 5% significantly improved the peak shape of both peptides. Finally, some compound-specific MS parameters, i.e. the capillary and the cone voltages, were evaluated. The peak areas increased with a factor 2 and 7 for NmU-8 and NmS respectively and peptide detection in the low picomolar range is now feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115306
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis
Early online date24 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2023

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  • Neuropeptides
  • Quantification
  • LC-MS/MS
  • Non-specific binding
  • Method optimization

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