Validation and application of an LC-MS/MS method for quantitation of three fatty acid ethanolamides as biomarkers for fatty acid hydrolase inhibition in human plasma

Wenying Jian, Richard Edom, Naidong Weng, Peter Zannikos, Zhiming Zhang, Hao Wang
Journal of Chromatography. B, Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences 2010 June 15, 878 (20): 1687-99
Endogenous ethanolamides (fatty acid amides), including arachidonyl ethanolamide (anandamide, AEA), oleoyl ethanolamide (OEA), and palmitoyl ethanolamide (PEA), are substrates of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). FAAH may play an important role for pain, anxiety/depression, and metabolic disorders. Ethanolamides are considered to be potential pharmacodynamic biomarkers to determine target engagement for FAAH inhibition by novel pharmaceutical agents. A highly selective, sensitive, and high-throughput liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method was developed and validated for simultaneous quantitation of AEA, OEA, and PEA in human plasma. The method employed D(4)-AEA, D(4)-OEA, and (13)C(2)-PEA as "surrogate analytes" to establish the concentration-mass response relationship, i.e. a regression equation. The concentrations of AEA, OEA, and PEA were calculated based on the regression equations derived from the surrogate analytes. This approach made it possible to prepare calibration standard and quality control (QC) samples in plasma devoid of interferences from the endogenous analytes. The analytical methodology required 150 microL of human plasma that was processed via liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) using a 96-well plate format. Chromatographic separation was achieved with a reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) column using gradient elution, and the run time was 3 min. The method was fully validated and it demonstrated acceptable accuracy, precision, linearity, and specificity. The lower limit of quantitation (LLOQ) was 0.1/0.5/0.5 ng/mL for AEA/OEA/PEA, which was sensitive enough to capture the basal plasma levels in healthy subjects. Bench-top stability in plasma, freeze-thaw stability in plasma, frozen long-term stability in plasma, autosampler stability, and stock solution stability all met acceptance criteria (%Bias within +/-12.0%). Characterization of stability in purchased/aged blood indicated that ethanolamides are subject to degradation mediated by intracellular membrane-bound FAAH, which has been shown to be inhibited by phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF). In the presence of PMSF, ethanolamide levels increased slightly over time, suggesting that blood cells release ethanolamides into plasma. Whole blood stability conducted in fresh blood immediately following collection revealed that there was significant elevation of ethanolamide concentrations (approximately 1.3-2.0-fold on ice and approximately 1.5-3.0-fold at room temperature by 2h), indicating that de novo synthesis and release from blood cells were the predominant factors affecting ethanolamide concentrations ex vivo. Accordingly, conditions that ensured rapid separation of plasma from blood cells and consistency in the blood harvesting procedures were established and implemented for clinical studies to minimize the ex vivo elevation of plasma ethanolamide concentrations. The variability (intra-subject and inter-subject) of plasma ethanolamide levels was evaluated in healthy subjects during a Phase 0 study (no drug administration) that simulated the design of single-ascending dose and multiple-ascending dose clinical trials in terms of sample collection time points, population, food, and activity. The data indicated there was relatively large inter- and intra-subject variation in plasma ethanolamide concentrations. In addition, apparent variations due to time of day and/or food effects were also revealed. Understanding the variability of ethanolamide levels in humans is very important for study design and data interpretation when changes in ethanolamide levels are used as target engagement biomarkers in clinical trials.

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