Abstract: The theoretical background and practical approaches for studying ligand-receptor (protein) binding by solid phase microextraction (SPME) are investigated, along with methods for simultaneous calculation of receptor, free, and total ligand concentrations. With the introduction of new extraction phases (restricted access materials, molecularly imprinted polymers, and immobilized antibodies), SPME allows better separation of small molecules of ligand from larger molecules of receptor, and improved accuracy. This sample preparation method based on nonexhaustive extraction is well suited as a general method to study and quantify systems involving multiple equilibriums, with significant advantages over currently used methods. SPME was used previously for the determination of protein binding constants, but only with conventional extraction phases and in simple cases, with a 1:1 combination ratio between the ligand and the receptor or when negligible depletion conditions were met. The new theoretical approach presented in this study allows the quantification of any binding equilibrium, regardless of the extent of depletion. Restricted-access particles are used as extraction phase, and if the amount of receptor is limited, selected regions of the binding curve may be obtained using a single sample, with a volume as low as 10 μL. The equations developed here are simple and independent of the analytical method used for the quantification of the amount of ligand. Three different practical approaches are presented: the method of multiple standard solutions, the method of successive extractions from the same sample and the method of successive additions to the same sample. The usefulness of this novel approach is demonstrated by using it to determine the binding parameters of some selected drugs to human serum albumin. These parameters are subsequently used to calculate albumin, free drug, and total drug concentrations from unknown mixtures. The results are in good agreement with previously published data. Quantification of the amount of ligand extracted by SPME is done by liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry.
Author keywords: solid-phase microextraction, ligand-receptor binding, binding constants, number of binding sites, free concentration, total concentration