Quantification of Synthetic Cathinones in Rat Brain Using HILIC–ESI-MS/MS

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The abuse of synthetic cathinones, formerly marketed as “bath salts”, has emerged over the last decade. Three common drugs in this class include 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone (methylone). An LC–MS/MS method has been developed and validated for the simultaneous quantification of MDPV, mephedrone, and methylone in brain tissue. Briefly, MDPV, mephedrone, methylone, and their deuterium-labeled analogs were subjected to solid phase extraction (SPE) and separated using an HILIC Silica Column. The HPLC was coupled to a Shimadzu IT-TOF (ion trap-time of flight) system with the electrospray source running in positive mode (+ESI). The method was validated for precision, accuracy, and extraction efficiency. All inter-day and intra-day % RSD (percent relative standard deviation) and % error values were less than 15% and extraction efficiency exceeded 80%. These conditions allowed for limits of detection of 1ng/mL for MDPV, and 5 ng/mL for both mephedrone and methylone. The limits of quantification were determined to be 5ng/mL for MDPV and 10 ng/mL for mephedrone and methylone. The method was utilized to evaluate the pharmacokinetics of these drugs in adult male rats following administration of a drug cocktail including MDPV, mephedrone, and methylone. All three compounds reached peak concentrations in the brain within 15 min. Although methylone and mephedrone were administered at the same dose, the peak concentration (Cmax) of mephedrone in the brain was significantly higher than that for methylone, as was the area under the curve (AUC). In summary, this quick and sensitive method for measuring synthetic cathinones may be used for future pharmacokinetic investigations of these drugs in target tissue.