Analysis for higenamine in urine by means of ultra‐high‐performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry: Interpretation of results

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EarlyView Article

  • Published: Dec 1, 2017
  • Author: Krzysztof Grucza, Dorota Kwiatkowska, Katarzyna Kowalczyk, Mariola Wicka, Mirosław Szutowski, Piotr Chołbiński
  • Journal: Drug Testing and Analysis


Higenamine (Norcoclaurine) is a very popular substance in Chinese medicine and is present in many plants. The substance may be also found in supplements or nutrients, consumption of which may result in violation of anti‐doping rules. Higenamine is prohibited in sport at all times and included in Class S3 (β‐2‐agonists) of the World Anti‐Doping Agency (WADA) 2017 Prohibited List. The presence of higenamine in urine samples at concentrations greater than or equal to 10 ng/mL constitutes an adverse analytical finding (AAF). This work presents a new metabolite of higenamine in urine sample which was identified by means of ultra performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC–MS/MS). Samples were prepared according to 2 protocols – a Dilute and Shoot (DaS) approach and a method involving acid hydrolysis and double liquid‐liquid extraction (LLE). To meet the requirements typical for a confirmatory analysis, the screening procedure was further developed. In samples prepared by the DaS method, 2 peaks were observed; the earlier one was specific for higenamine and the later one unknown. MS scan analysis showed mass about 80 Da higher than that of higenamine. In turn, in samples prepared in accordance with the protocol involving hydrolysis, an increase in the area under peak for higenamine was observed, while the second peak was absent. It seems that the described strategy of detection of higenamine in urine avoids false negative results.

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