Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry is More Accurate for Hormone Blood Testing Than Older IAs

Roli L, et al. J Endocrinol Invest. 2017.

The steroid response to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stimulation in men with Klinefelter syndrome does not change using immunoassay or mass spectrometry.


PURPOSE: Liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was developed in parallel to Immunoassays (IAs) and today is proposed as the “gold standard” for steroid assays. Leydig cells of men with Klinefelter syndrome (KS) are able to respond to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stimulation, even if testosterone (T) production was impaired. The aim was to evaluate how results obtained by IAs and LC-MS/MS can differently impact on the outcome of a clinical research on gonadal steroidogenesis after hCG stimulation.

METHODS: A longitudinal, prospective, case-control clinical trial. ( NCT02788136) was carried out, enrolling KS men and healthy age-matched controls, stimulated by hCG administration. Serum steroids were evaluated at baseline and for 5 days after intramuscular injection of 5000 IU hCG using both IAs and LC-MS/MS.
RESULTS: 13 KS patients (36 ± 9 years) not receiving T replacement therapy and 14 controls (32 ± 8 years) were enrolled. T, progesterone, cortisol, 17-hydroxy-progesterone(17OHP) and androstenedione, were significantly higher using IAs than LC-MS/MS.IAs and LC-MS/MS showed direct correlation for all five steroids, although the constant overestimation detected by IAs. Either methodology found the same 17OHP and T increasing profile after hCG stimulation, with equal areas under the curves (AUCs).

CONCLUSIONS: Although a linearity between IA and LC-MS/MS is demonstrated, LC-MS/MS is more sensitive and accurate, whereas IA shows a constant overestimation of sex steroid levels. This result suggests the need of reference intervals built on the specific assay. This fundamental difference between these two methodologies opens a deep reconsideration of what is needed to improve the accuracy of steroid hormone assays.