Optimization of silylation using N-methyl-N-(trimethylsilyl)-trifluoroacetamide, N,O-bis-(trimethylsilyl)-trifluoroacetamide and N-(tert-butyldimethylsilyl)-N-methyltrifluoroacetamide for the determination of the estrogens estrone and 17α-ethinylestradiol by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper reports an improved silylation procedure for simultaneous determination of the steroid hormones 17alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2) and estrone (E1) using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). This follows a re-assessment of some of the popular silylation procedures using N-methyl-N-trimethylsilyltrifluoroacetamide (MSTFA), N-O-bis-(trimethylsilyl)-trifluoroacetamide (BSTFA) and N-(tert-butyldimethylsilyl)-N-methyltrifluoroacetamide (MTBSTFA), which lead to the formation of trimethylsilyl (TMS) and tert-butyldimethylsilyl (TBS) derivatives. Silylation of EE2 using MSTFA or BSTFA+1% TMCS in ethyl acetate, acetonitrile and dichloromethane solvents produced multiple peaks corresponding to TMS-E1, and 3-mono-TMS-EE2 and/or 3,17-di-TMS-EE2 in variable proportions depending on the solvent used. When pyridine or dimethyl formamide solvents were used in the silylation of EE2 under the same reaction conditions, only 3,17-di-TMS-EE2 derivative was formed. Derivatization using MTBSTFA reagents using ethyl acetate, acetonitrile, dichloromethane, pyridine and dimethyl formamide resulted in almost 100% conversion of mono-TBS-EE2 to the TBS-E1. Therefore, typical methods used in some previous GC-MS determinations of E1 and EE2 in environmental water and/or sediment samples are subject to speculation. However, we can confirm that any of the TMS reagents can be used with either pyridine or dimethyl formamide under suitable reaction conditions.

publication date

  • March 2006