New approaches for developing biomarkers of hormonal contraceptive use

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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To identify biomarkers of hormonal contraceptive (HC) use in urine and saliva, we conducted a pilot study with 30 women initiating levonorgestrel (LNG) containing combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) (15/group). Based on established COC pharmacokinetics, we collected serum and urine samples before COC ingestion and during Days one and three of use, or before DMPA injection and on Days 21 and 60 post-injection. We used liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) to measure serum/urine LNG and MPA. LNG was undetectable at baseline (specificity 100%); post ingestion, most urine samples had detectable LNG levels (sensitivity: 80% 6 h post Dose one, 93% 6 h post Dose three). We used a DetectX LNG immunoassay kit and showed 100% sensitivity measuring urine LNG. Urine MPA levels were undetectable in 14/15 women at baseline (specificity 91%); post-injection all urine samples had detectable MPA levels (sensitivity: 100% days 21 and 60). Results suggest urine sampling can be used to identify a biomarker of LNG and MPA use. Based on evidence from other steroidal hormonal studies showing changes affecting the transcriptome profile of saliva at 24 h, we used the same (COC, DMPA) timepoints to collect saliva. We performed transcriptome analysis and detected several differentially expressed genes in DMPA users’ saliva on Days 21 and 60 compared to baseline; none among COC users. We plan further research of differential gene expression in saliva as a HC biomarker of DMPA use, and will explore longer periods of COC use and saliva collection times, and application of microRNA sequencing to support using saliva as a COC biomarker.