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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Trifluoroacetic anhydride-catalyzed nitration of toluene as an approach to the specific analysis of nitrate by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

The nitration of aromatic compounds by electrophilic substitution is often utilized in analyses of nitrate concentrations in physiological samples by gas chromatographic methods. Problems associated with the use of concentrated sulfuric acid, which is normally used to catalyze this reaction, led us to investigate an alternative method. We describe here a facile GC/ MS assay for nitrate in plasma or urine samples which takes advantage of the ability of trifluoroacetic anhydride (TFAA) to catalyze the nitration of aromatics. Toluene, utilized as both reaction solvent and electrophile, was shown to react with nitrate in the presence of TFAA to quantitatively produce the three nitrotoluene isomers (ratio o-:m:p-, approx 57:3:40). Following the incorporation of 15N-labeled nitrate as internal standard, nitrotoluene was quantified using GC/ MS by analysis of the selected the ion pairs m/z 120 and 121 (M+ -OH) for the o-isomer or m/z 137 and 138 (molecular ion, M+) for the p-isomer. The limit of detection for nitrate after TFAA-catalyzed conversion to nitrotoluene was less than 100 fmol on column (s/n; 40:1). The TFAA-based GC/ MS assay was compared with that utilizing the usual catalyst, concentrated sulfuric acid. With the exception of samples containing nitroarginine analogues, good correlation was found for urine or plasma samples analyzed using either a standard sulfuric acid-catalyzed method or the TFAA-catalyzed procedure. Nitroarginine analogues, which can be present in samples following their use as nitric oxide synthase inhibitors, did not decompose under the conditions of the TFAA-catalyzed assay and, hence, do not give rise to significant interference with nitrate analysis in this procedure. In contrast, catalytic sulfuric acid caused nitroarginine analogues to decompose (essentially quantitatively) and cause spuriously high nitrate levels in samples. The use of TFAA as a catalyst for the nitration of toluene enables a facile and sensitive GC/ MS analysis for nitrate which offers improved safety and sample integrity.[1]


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