Electromembrane extraction of highly polar compounds: Analysis of cardiovascular biomarkers in plasma

Nicolas Drouin, Tim Kloots, Julie Schappler, Serge Rudaz, Isabelle Kohler, Amy Harms, Petrus Wilhelmus Lindenburg*, Thomas Hankemeier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) represent a major concern in today’s society, with more than 17.5 million deaths reported annually worldwide. Recently, five metabolites related to the gut metabolism of phospholipids were identified as promising predictive biomarker candidates for CVD. Validation of those biomarker candidates is crucial for applications to the clinic, showing the need for high-throughput analysis of large numbers of samples. These five compounds, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), choline, betaine, L-carnitine, and deoxy-L-carnitine (4-trimethylammoniobutanoic acid), are highly polar compounds and show poor retention on conventional reversed phase chromatography, which can lead to strong matrix effects when using mass spectrometry detection, especially when high-throughput analysis approaches are used with limited separation of analytes from interferences. In order to reduce the potential matrix effects, we propose a novel fast parallel electromembrane extraction (Pa-EME) method for the analysis of these metabolites in plasma samples. The evaluation of Pa-EME parameters was performed using multi segment injection–capillary electrophoresis–mass spectrometry (MSI-CE-MS). Recoveries up to 100% were achieved, with variability as low as 2%. Overall, this study highlights the necessity of protein precipitation prior to EME for the extraction of highly polar compounds. The developed Pa-EME method was evaluated in terms of concentration range and response function, as well as matrix effects using fast-LC-MS/MS. Finally, the developed workflow was compared to conventional sample pre-treatment, i.e., protein precipitation using methanol, and fast-LC-MS/MS. Data show very strong correlations between both workflows, highlighting the great potential of Pa-EME for high-throughput biological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Capillary electrophoresis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Electromembrane extraction
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Multi-segment injection


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