Separation and Quantification of N-acetylcysteine-amide (NACA) by HPLC with Fluorescence Detection

Wei Wu
Richard H. Matthews
Nuran Ercal, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Craig D. Adams, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Glenn Goldstein

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N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) is a well-known antioxidant that is capable of facilitating glutathione (GSH) biosynthesis and replenishing intracellular GSH under oxidatively challenging circumstances. N-acetyl-cysteine-amide (NACA), the amide form of NAC, is a newly designed and synthesized thiol-containing compound which is believed to be more lipophilic and permeable through cell membranes than NAC. The metabolic and antioxidant effects of these compounds in vitro and in vivo are under investigation. However, an analytical method that can separate and quantify both compounds simultaneously is not yet available, to the best of our knowledge. Because of their structural similarities, the two compounds are difficult to separate using earlier HPLC methods which were designed for NAC quantification. Therefore, the goal of this work was to develop an HPLC method with fluorescence detection for simultaneous quantification of NAC and NACA in biological blood and tissue samples. A gradient HPLC program with fluorescence detection (ex = 330 nm, em = 376 nm) using N-(1-pyrenyl)maleimide (NPM) as the derivatizing agent was developed. The calibration curves were linear over a concentration range of 25-5000 nm (r2 > 0.997). The coefficients of variation for within-run precision and between-run precision ranged from 0.67 to 5.23% and for accuracy ranged from 0.98 to 10.54%; the percentage relative recovery ranged from 94.5 to 102.8%. This new method provides satisfactory separation of NAC and NACA, along with other biological thiols, in 20 min with a 5 nm limit of detection (LOD) per 5 µL injection volume.