Role of ion pairing in anionic additive effects on the separation of cationic drugs in reversed-phase liquid chromatography

Jun Dai, Peter W. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Mobile phase additives can significantly affect the separation of cationic drugs in reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC). Although there are many applications for anionic additives in RPLC separations, the retention mechanism of basic drugs in the presence of inorganic and highly hydrophilic anionic species in the mobile phase is not at all well understood. Two major retention mechanisms by which anionic additives can influence the retention of cations are: (1) ion pair formation in the mobile phase with subsequent retention of the neutral ion pair; (2) pre-sorption of anionic additives on the stationary phase followed by "dynamic ion-exchange" or "electrostatic interaction" with the analytes. Because the use of ion pair chromatography in the separation of proteins, peptides, and basic drugs is rapidly increasing, understanding the retention mechanism involved is becoming more important, especially for the smaller commonly used hydrophilic anionic additives (e.g., formate HCOO-, chloride Cl-, trifluoroacetate CF 3COO-, perchlorate ClO4-, and hexafluorophosphate PF6-). In this work, we compared various anionic additives in light of their effects on the retention of basic drugs. As did many others we found that the addition of anionic additives (Cl-, CF3COO-, ClO4-, PF6-) profoundly influences the retention of basic drugs. In order to explain the data and differentiate the mechanisms by which the anionic additives perturb the chromatography, we used ion pair formation constants independently measured by capillary electrophoresis (CE) under the mobile phase conditions (pH, solvent composition) identical to those used in chromatography. Agreement between the predicted and experimental chromatographic data under various conditions was evaluated. Under specific circumstances (e.g., pH, stationary phase, and nature of anionic additive), we conclude that the ion pair mechanism is more important than the dynamic ion-exchange and at other conditions it remains a significant contribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 29 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank National Institute of Health for the financial support and Agilent Technologies Inc. (Wilmington, DE) for the donation of the SB C 18 columns.


  • Anionic additive
  • Basic pharmaceuticals
  • Capillary electrophoresis
  • Ion pair formation constant
  • LC/MS
  • RPLC
  • Retention mechanism


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