Development of a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) method for characterizing caffeine, methylliberine, and theacrine pharmacokinetics in humans


Coffea liberica possesses stimulant properties without accumulating the methylxanthine caffeine. The basis for this peculiar observation is that methylurates (e.g., theacrine and methylliberine) have replaced caffeine. The stimulant properties of methylurates, alone and in combination with caffeine, have recently been investigated. However, human pharmacokinetics and LC-MS/MS methods for simultaneous measurement of methylxanthines and methylurates are lacking. To address this deficiency, we conducted a pharmacokinetic study in which subjects (n = 12) were orally administered caffeine (150 mg), methylliberine (Dynamine™, 100 mg), and theacrine (TeaCrine®, 50 mg) followed by blood sampling over 24 h. Liquid-liquid extraction of plasma samples containing purine alkaloids and internal standard (13C-Caffeine) were analyzed using a C18 reversed-phase column and gradient elution (acetonitrile and water, both containing 0.1% formic acid). A Waters Xevo TQ-S tandem mass spectrometer (positive mode) was used to detect caffeine, methylliberine, theacrine, and IS transitions of m/z 195.11 → 138.01, 225.12 → 168.02, 225.12 → 167.95, and 198.1 → 140.07, respectively. The method was validated for precision, accuracy, selectivity, and linearity and was successfully applied to characterize the oral pharmacokinetics of caffeine, methylliberine, and theacrine in human plasma. Successful development and application of LC-MS/MS-based methods such as ours for the simultaneous measurement of methylxanthines and methylurates are essential for the characterization of potential pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic interactions.

Publication Title

Journal of Chromatography B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences