Metabolic profiling analysis of free amino acids (AAs) in plasma (20 microL) was performed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in selected ion monitoring mode after ethoxycarbonyl/tert-butyldimethylsilyl derivatives. Characteristic fragment ions, including [M - 57](+) ions, permitted sensitive and selective detection of most of the AAs in the presence of co-extracted carboxylic acids, including free fatty acids, at much higher levels. The overall method was linear (r > or = 0.9991), reproducible (relative standard deviation = 2.3-8.8%) and accurate (relative error = -7.3-7.7%) with detection limits of 0.01-1.9 ng/mL. A total of 18 AAs, 15 protein AAs and three nonprotein AAs were quantitatively screened in a normal human plasma sample. This selective and simple method using a minimal sample volume was effective for the quantitation of plasma free AAs.
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