Stereochemical analysis of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine and its main metabolites by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Amadeu Liebaria, Silvia Cano, Jesús Joglar, Magí Farré, Jordi Segura, Rafael De la Torre, Maria Nieves Pizarro Lozano

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35 Citations (Scopus)


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) is consumed as the racemate but some metabolic steps are enantioselective. In addition, chiral properties are preserved during MDMA biotransformation. A quantitative analytical methodology using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to determine enantioselective disposition in the body of MDMA and its main metabolites including 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 4-hydroxy-3-methoxymethamphetamine (HMMA), and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxyamphetamine (HMA) was developed. Plasma and urine samples were collected from a male volunteer. The analysis of MDMA, MDA, and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy metabolites by GC/MS required a two-step derivatization procedure. The first step consisted of derivatization of the amine with enantiomerically pure Mosher's reagent ((R)-MTPCI). Triethylamine was used as a base to neutralize hydrochloric acid formed during the reaction allowing quantitative derivatization, which resulted in a substantial improvement in the sensitivity of the method compared with other previously described techniques. Further treatment with ammonium hydroxide was required since both amine and hydroxyl groups underwent derivatization in the reaction. Ammonium hydroxide breaks bonds formed with hydroxyl groups without affecting amine derivatives. The second derivatization step using hexamethyldisilazane was needed for metabolites containing phenol residues. This derivatization method permitted the stereochemically specific study of MDMA and its main monohydroxylated metabolites by GC/MS. A detailed study of the chemical reactions involved in the derivatization steps was indispensable to develop a straightforward, sensitive, and reproducible method for the analysis of the parent drug compound and its metabolites. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-336
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2003


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