Gas chromatographic method using photoionization detection for the determination of breath pentane

Emile R. Mohler, Peter Reaven, Jane E. Stegner, Naomi S. Fineberg, David R. Hathaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Lipid peroxidation is thought to be an important event in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. It has been suggested that pentane, which can be formed during the oxidation of ω-6 fatty acids, is a marker of lipid peroxidation. Previous studies have reported elevated breath pentane and serum markers of lipid peroxidation in smokers. However, chromatographic separation of pentane from isoprene in virtually all of these studies was incomplete and the methods used did not resolve pentane into its isomers, n-pentane and isopentane. Additionally, most current methods are complicated, requiring trapping and concentrating steps to obtain adequate sensitivity prior to hydrocarbon analysis. The purpose of the current study was to develop a gas chromatographic system to analyze breath pentane, that addresses the above technical problems and that would provide a simple in vivo method for measuring lipid. n-Pentane and isopentane standards were easily separated from isoprene with a Al2O3/KCl capillary column contained in a portable gas chromatograph equipped with a photoionization detector. The analysis of repeated measures showed a low coefficient of variation for measurements of n-pentane (10%) and isopentane (9%). We measured breath pentane in 27 subjects (15 smokers, 12 non-smokers). There were no significant difference between the baseline and 4 week interval measurements of n-pentane for smokers both before and after cigarette smoking. The within-subject variability data showed that the assay is highly reproducible for both low and high pentane levels in smokers. Smokers were found to have higher levels of both n-pentane and isopentane than non-smokers (P < 0.001). In addition, smokers had further significant elevation of pentane levels 10 min after smoking (P < 0.001), which returned to baseline by 1 h. These studies demonstrate that measurement of breath pentane, using a gas chromatograph with a photoionization detector, is simple and reproducible. Additionally, these results suggest that pentane elevation associated with smoking is secondary to the oxidant effects of cigarette smoke and an important temporal relationship exists between cigarette smoking and breath sample analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chromatography B: Biomedical Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 25 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Pentane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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