Separation of ortho, meta and para isomers of methylmethcathinone (MMC) and methylethcathinone (MEC) using LC-ESI-MS/MS: Application to forensic serum samples.J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2017 Apr 15; 1051:118-125.JC
Separation and identification of positional isomers is an important issue in forensic toxicology, particularly in the context of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Despite the structural similarity, positional isomers often show different pharmacological properties and thus can exhibit dramatic differences with respect to their toxicity. Additionally, besides these pharmacological and toxicological effects, the legal status is also of great importance. We present a sensitive and selective LC-MS/MS method to separate the ortho, meta and para isomers of methylmethcathinone (MMC) and methylethcathinone (MEC) using a core-shell biphenyl analytical column. Reliability of the method was confirmed under consideration of the validation parameters selectivity, linearity, accuracy and precision, analytical limits, processed sample stability, matrix effects and recovery. Linearity was demonstrated over the entire calibration range from 5 to 250ng/ml with the use of a 1/x2 weighting. Appropriate quantification and detection limits (LLOQ=5ng/ml, LOD<2ng/ml) could be achieved. Application of the method to real serum samples collected between June 2014 and August 2016 revealed the proof of a recent MMC or MEC consumption, respectively, in eight cases. Isomers of MMC could be detected in three of these eight cases, of which two were positive for 3-MMC and one was positive for 2-MMC. The other samples were tested positively for 3-MEC. In none of the samples 4-MMC, 2-MEC or 4-MEC could be detected. Only substances that were not governmentally controlled at that time could be detected, reflecting the rapid response of the recreational drug market to newly enacting drug laws.