Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 392, Issue 7–8, pp 1299–1308 | Cite as

Unraveling the metabolic transformation of tetrazepam to diazepam with mass spectrometric methods

  • Birthe Schubert
  • Marion Pavlic
  • Kathrin Libiseller
  • Herbert OberacherEmail author
Original Paper


The metabolic transformation pathways of the 1,4-benzodiazepine tetrazepam (C16H17ClN2O, average mass: 288.772) were studied with capillary LC-QqTOF-MS and -MS/MS by analyzing human plasma and urine samples collected from healthy volunteers. Each volunteer took 50 mg of tetrazepam, given in the form of one tablet of Myolastan (Sanofi-Synthelabo, Vienna, Austria). Accurate molecular mass measurements in full-scan mode (scan range: 50–700) were used to survey the collected samples for putative metabolic transformation products. Full-scan fragment ion mass spectra were collected in subsequent LC/MS/MS experiments. Each spectrum was matched to a spectral library containing 3759 MS/MS-spectra of 402 compounds, including eighteen different benzodiazepines, to prove the structural relatedness of a tentative metabolite to tetrazepam. This “similarity search” approach provided a rapid and powerful tool to exclude non-drug-related species, even without any knowledge of the fragmentation chemistry. Interpretation of tandem mass spectrometric data was only required in order to elucidate the site of transformation. Using this strategy, 11 major classes of tetrazepam metabolites were identified. Possible metabolic routes from tetrazepam to diazepam (C16H13ClN2O, average mass: 284.740) via repeated hydroxylation and dehydration of the cylohexenyl moiety were discovered. No evidence for extensive hydroxylation of tetrazepam at position 3 of the diazepine ring was found. In contrast to what is commonly believed, this distinct transformation reaction may be of only minor importance. Furthermore, the occurrence of demethylation, hydration, and glucuronidation reactions was proven.


Principle workflow applied for the identification of tetrazepam metabolites


Mass spectrometry Liquid chromatography Electrospray ionization Tetrazepam Metabolism Library search 



The authors wish to thank Applied Biosystems for their generous provision of the mass spectrometer and the associated equipment. Furthermore, financial support from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG, Österreichisches Sicherheitsforschungs-Förderprogramm “KIRAS—eine Initiative des Bundesministeriums für Verkehr, Innovation, Technologie (BMVIT), Projekt 813786”) is acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Birthe Schubert
    • 1
  • Marion Pavlic
    • 1
  • Kathrin Libiseller
    • 1
  • Herbert Oberacher
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Legal MedicineInnsbruck Medical UniversityInnsbruckAustria

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