The importance of mass spectrometry in metabolomics



Metabolomics is the large-scale study of small molecules (often called metabolites) in cells, biological fluids, tissues or organisms. These small molecules and their interactions in biological systems are collectively referred to as the metabolome. An emerging technology that enables comprehensive analysis of metabolites in biological samples is defined as metabolomics.

Metabolomics is an interdisciplinary subject emerging in the post-genomics era. Its main goal is to quantitatively study the multiple dynamic responses of living organisms to external stimuli, pathophysiological changes, and their own gene mutations at the level of metabolites in the body. Metabolomics was born at the end of the last century and was founded by Professor Jeremy Nicholson of Imperial University, London, UK. After that, it has developed rapidly and penetrated into many fields, such as disease diagnosis, pharmaceutical research and development, nutritional food science, toxicology, environmental science, and botany. and other fields closely related to human health care.

Since the development of metabolomics, metabolomics technology has gone far beyond the scope of standard clinical chemistry techniques and can accurately analyze hundreds to thousands of metabolites. Metabolomics provides detailed characterization of metabolic phenotypes and enables precision medicine research at many levels, including characterizing metabolic disorders underlying disease, discovering novel therapeutic targets, and discovering the activity of drugs that can be used to diagnose disease or monitor therapeutics.

The most common metabolomic analysis method is mass spectrometry (MS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Mass spectrometry techniques are further divided into LC-MS and GC-MS. The basic principle is to ionize the components in the sample in the ion source to generate charged ions with different charge-to-mass ratios, and through the action of the accelerating electric field, form an ion beam and enter the mass analyzer. In the mass analyzer, the electric and magnetic fields are used to cause opposite velocity dispersion, and they are respectively focused to obtain a mass spectrum, so as to determine its mass (mass-to-charge ratio), and perform quantitative or semi-quantitative analysis by the intensity of the mass-to-charge ratio. . NMR is a spectroscopic technique based on the principle of nuclear energy absorption and re-emission caused by changes in an external magnetic field. Spectral data generated by NMR can be used to quantify concentrations and characterize the chemical structures of metabolites.

The choice of metabolomics technology is mainly based on the purpose of the research, sample type, etc. NMR requires less sample preparation and produces spectra that are linear with compound concentration. However, the sensitivity of NMR is relatively low, so only the most abundant species are usually detected and few species are detected. Factors such as the need for a long purification process, etc., limit the large-scale use of this method. The mass spectrometry technique combined with effective sample preparation and chromatographic separation has high sensitivity and specificity, as well as a good dynamic level, which makes mass spectrometry especially high-resolution LC-MS especially suitable for non-targeted and targeted to metabolomics. Simply put, as long as the substance can be ionized and captured by the detector, it can be detected in LC-MS. Therefore, the use of optimized sample pretreatment conditions, the selection of different chromatographic mass spectrometry detection methods and streamlined operation specifications according to the detection purpose are also an important basis for the success of metabolomics analysis.

AxisPharm metabolomics analysis solutions include:

Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS): Commonly used for targeted analysis of water-soluble metabolites (requiring derivatization), some lipids, and organic acids.
Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS): untargeted metabolomics, targeted metabolomics, untargeted lipidomics, targeted lipidomics. Commonly used for targeted and non-targeted analysis of water-soluble small molecules such as amino acids, carbohydrates, alcohols, organic acids, amines, TCA cycle intermediates, and lipid macromolecules
NMR Spectroscopy: commonly used for substance identification and analysis of simple or purified samples
*Except for easy-to-handle samples such as blood and serum, samples from cells, tissues, organs or bacteria can be subjected to metabolomic analysis.


Our metabolomics services can be applied to various fields, including but not limited to the agricultural industry, food industry, biomedical area, and pharmaceutical area.

Agricultural industry: plant metabolomics, the development of new pesticides, etc
Food industry: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, olive oil, etc
Biomedical area: metabolomic profiling, biomarker discovery, etc
Pharmaceutical area: drug toxicity, drug metabolism, etc

Metabolomics Services