Ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLCESI-MS/MS) provides a high-speed method to screen a large number of samples for small molecules with specific properties. In this study, UPLC-ESI-MS/MS with multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) was employed to screen urinary phospholipid (PL) content for biomarkers of prostate cancer. From lists of urinary PLs structurally identified using nanoflow LC-ESI-MS/MS, 52 PL species were selected for quantitative analysis in urine samples between 22 cancer-free urologic patients as controls and 45 prostate cancer patients. Statistical treatment of data by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis yielded 14 PL species that differed significantly in relative concentrations (area under curve (AUC) > 0.8) between the two groups. Among PLs present at higher levels in prostate cancer urine, phosphatidylcholines (PCs) and phosphatidylinositols (PIs) constituted the major head group PLs (3 PCs and 7 PIs). For technical reasons, PL species of low abundance may be underrepresented in data from UPLC-ESI-MS/MS performed in MRM mode. However, the proposed method enables the rapid screening of large numbers of plasma or urine samples in the search for biomarkers of human disease.
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