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Characterization and quantification of histidine degradation in therapeutic protein formulations by size exclusion-hydrophilic interaction two dimensional-liquid chromatography with stable-isotope labeling mass spectrometry
Two dimensional liquid chromatography (2D-LC) coupling size exclusion (SEC) and hydrophilic interaction chromatography (HILIC) is demonstrated as a useful tool to study polar excipients, such as histidine and its degradant, in protein formulation samples. The SEC-HILIC setup successfully removed interferences from complex sample matrices and enabled accurate mass measurement of the histidine degradation product, which was then determined to be t. rans-urocanic acid. Because the SEC effluent is a strong solvent for the second dimension HILIC, experimental parameters needed to be carefully chosen, i.e., small transferring loop, fast gradient at high flow rates for the second dimension gradient, in order to mitigate the solvent mismatch and to ensure good peak shapes for HILIC separations. In addition, the generation of trans-urocanic acid was quantified by single heart-cutting SEC-HILIC 2D-LC combined with stable-isotope labeling mass spectrometry. Compared with existing 2D quantification methods, the proposed approach is fast, insensitive to solvent mismatch between dimensions, and tolerant of small retention time shifts in the first dimension. Finally, the first dimension diode array detector was found to be a potential degradation source for photolabile analytes such as trans-urocanic acid.