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We have developed a novel metal tag, bis(ethylenediamine)-4'-methyl-4-carboxybipyridine-ruthenium N-succinimidyl ester (ECRS) for sensitive analysis of amino acids using high performance liquid chromatography/inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HPLC/ICP-MS). ECRS is a functional reagent, containing an ester group at one end that can be activated to bind to amino group and a chelated ruthenium at the other. The activated ester was reacted briefly with amino groups under weakly alkaline conditions. The ruthenium was detected sensitively by ICP-MS. ECRS was reacted with 17 proteinogenic amino acids in borate buffer. The derivatives were separated by reversed phase HPLC and identified by quadrupole-based ICP-MS. ECRS was suitable for speciation; low molecular weight compounds containing amino groups. We have thus established a quantitative analytical method for amino acids and dipeptides. The detection limits of branched amino acids (signal-to-noise ratio of 3) were 1.5 nmol·L-1 in the standard solution (100 amol per injection).