Stability of heroin, 6-monoacetylmorphine, and morphine in biological samples and validation of an LC-MS assay for delayed analyses of pharmacokinetic samples in rats

Jessica M. Jones, Michael D. Raleigh, Paul R. Pentel, Theresa M. Harmon, Daniel E. Keyler, Rory P. Remmel, Angela K. Birnbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Degradation of heroin to 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and then morphine happens rapidly in vivo and in vitro. The rates of heroin and 6-MAM degradation depend on the type of biological samples, and the duration and conditions of storage. In order to optimize conditions for measuring heroin and its metabolites in samples collected for pharmacokinetic studies in rats, we investigated the time course of degradation of heroin, 6-MAM, and morphine in four biological matrices: rat blood, rat brain homogenate, bovine serum, and human plasma under various conditions. Analyte concentrations were measured by LC-MS. The goal was to identify conditions that allow maximum flexibility in scheduling sample collection and analysis, as well as gain more information on the stability of heroin in blood and tissue samples. A solid-phase extraction method with ice-cold solvents, sodium fluoride (NaF) and a low pH (3.0) maintained sample stability. Quality controls were within 94.0-105% of the target value. Variability was 4.0-8.9% for all analytes within the range of 5-200. ng/mL for heroin, 5-1000. ng/mL for 6-MAM, and 10-200. ng/mL for morphine. Heroin degradation to 6-MAM was faster in rat whole blood than in plasma, and faster in rat plasma than in rat brain homogenate. Maintaining NaF at 4. mg/mL throughout processing enhanced stability; higher NaF concentrations added to whole blood caused hemolysis. Samples processed through solid phase extraction and stored as dried pellets at 80. °C constituted the most stable environment for heroin, and was superior to the storing of samples in solution prior to or after extraction. Nevertheless, post-extraction heroin and 6-MAM levels declined by 6.7-8.3% over one week in rat plasma under these conditions, and by <1-4.7% in bovine serum or human plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-297
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis
StatePublished - Feb 3 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Michaela Roslawski for her help in revision of this manuscript. This work was supported by NIH/NIDA R01 DA030715, NIH/NIDA R01 DA026300, and T32-DA07097 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIDA or the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Assay validation
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Rat
  • Stability

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