Original Paper

Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 400, Issue 9, pp 2903-2912

First online:

Sarcosine as a marker in prostate cancer progression: a rapid and simple method for its quantification in human urine by solid-phase microextraction–gas chromatography–triple quadrupole mass spectrometry

  • Brunella CavaliereAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università della Calabria
  • , Barbara MacchioneAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università della Calabria
  • , Marcello MonteleoneAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università della Calabria
  • , Attilio NaccaratoAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università della Calabria
  • , Giovanni SindonaAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università della Calabria Email author 
  • , Antonio TagarelliAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica, Università della Calabria

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Sarcosine is an amino acid derivative of N-methylglycine and is involved in the amino acid metabolism and methylation processes that are enriched during prostate cancer progression. It could also serve as a new target to be measured during therapeutic interventions and help in the identification of aggressive tumors for radical treatment. In this study, we present a new urine test that can help early diagnosis of prostate cancer. The method for the quantification of sarcosine in urine consists of a solid-phase microextraction (SPME) step followed by gas chromatography–triple quadrupole mass spectrometry analysis. We used a preliminary derivatization step with ethyl chloroformate/ethanol and the corresponding ester was then extracted by SPME in immersion mode. Several fibers were evaluated and the optimization of the parameters affecting the SPME process was carried out using an experimental design. The optimal values were 20 min extraction time, 10% NaCl, and 270°C using a divinylbenzene/Carboxen/polydimethylsiloxane fiber. The triple quadrupole analyzer acquired data in selected reaction monitoring mode, allowing us to obtain reconstructed chromatograms with well-defined chromatographic peaks. The accuracy and precision of this method were evaluated at concentrations of 70, 250, and 800 ng/ml and were found to be acceptable. Very satisfactory values (0.10 and 0.16 ng/ml, respectively) were also achieved for the limit of detection and the limit of quantification. The proposed protocol represents a rapid, simple, selective, and sensitive tool to quantify sarcosine in urine samples for prostate cancer diagnosis and for a screening test.


Sarcosine Prostate cancer Alkyl chloroformate Gas chromatography Solid-phase microextraction Tandem mass spectrometry