Quantitative On-line Liquid Chromatography-Surface- Enhanced Raman Scattering (LC-SERS) of Methotrexate and its Major Metabolites

Abdu Subaihi, Drupad Trivedi, Katherine Hollywood, James Bluett, Yun Xu, Howbeer Muhamad Ali, David Ellis, Royston Goodacre

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The application of Raman spectroscopy as a detection method coupled with liquid chromatography (LC) has recently attracted considerable interest, although this has currently been limited to isocratic elution. The combination of LC with rapidly advancing Raman techniques, such as surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), allows for the rapid separation, identification and quantification, leading to quantitative discrimination of closely eluting analytes. This study has demonstrated the utility of SERS in conjunction with reversed phase liquid chromatography (RP-LC), for the detection and quantification of the therapeutically relevant drug molecule methotrexate (MTX) and its metabolites 7-hydroxy methotrexate and 2,4-diamino-N(10)-methylpteroic acid (DAMPA) in pure solutions and mixtures, including spikes into human urine from a healthy individual. Whilst the RP-LC analysis developed employed gradient elution, where the chemical constituents of the mobile phase were modified stepwise during analysis, this did not overtly interfere with the SERS signals. In addition, the practicability and clinical utility of this approach has also been demonstrated using authentic patients’ urine samples. Here, the identification of MTX, 7-OH MTX and DAMPA are based on their unique SERS spectra, providing limits of detection of 0.53, 2.17 and 1.13 µM respectively. Although these analytes are amenable to LC and LC-MS detection an additional major benefit of the SERS approach is its applicability towards the detection of analytes that do not show UV absorption or are not ionised for mass spectrometry (MS)-based detection. The results of this study clearly demonstrate the potential application of online LC-SERS analysis for real time high-throughput detection of drugs and their related metabolites in human biofluids. 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6702-6709
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number12
Early online date15 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2017


  • Liquid chromatography
  • Raman
  • LC
  • SERS
  • Metabolomics
  • Methotrexate
  • Rheumatoid arthiritis
  • Neoplasia
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Urine

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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