The combination of four analytical methods to explore skeletal muscle metabolomics: Better coverage of metabolic pathways or a marketing argument?

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Abstract

Objectives:

Metabolomics is an emerging science based on diverse high throughput methods that are rapidly evolving to improve metabolic coverage of biological fluids and tissues. Technical progress has led researchers to combine several analytical methods without reporting the impact on metabolic coverage of such a strategy. The objective of our study was to develop and validate several analytical techniques (mass spectrometry coupled to gas or liquid chromatography and nuclear magnetic resonance) for the metabolomic analysis of small muscle samples and evaluate the impact of combining methods for more exhaustive metabolite covering.

Design and methods:

We evaluated the muscle metabolome from the same pool of mouse muscle samples after 2 metabolite extraction protocols. Four analytical methods were used: targeted flow injection analysis coupled with mass spectrometry (FIA-MS/MS), gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC–MS), liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC–HRMS), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis. We evaluated the global variability of each compound i.e., analytical (from quality controls) and extraction variability (from muscle extracts). We determined the best extraction method and we reported the common and distinct metabolites identified based on the number and identity of the compounds detected with low analytical variability (variation coefficient < 30%) for each method. Finally, we assessed the coverage of muscle metabolic pathways obtained.

Results:

Methanol/chloroform/water and water/methanol were the best extraction solvent for muscle metabolome analysis by NMR and MS, respectively. We identified 38 metabolites by nuclear magnetic resonance, 37 by FIA-MS/MS, 18 by GC–MS, and 80 by LC–HRMS. The combination led us to identify a total of 132 metabolites with low variability partitioned into 58 metabolic pathways, such as amino acid, nitrogen, purine, and pyrimidine metabolism, and the citric acid cycle. This combination also showed that the contribution of GC–MS was low when used in combination with other mass spectrometry methods and nuclear magnetic resonance to explore muscle samples.

Conclusion:

This study reports the validation of several analytical methods, based on nuclear magnetic resonance and several mass spectrometry methods, to explore the muscle metabolome from a small amount of tissue, comparable to that obtained during a clinical trial. The combination of several techniques may be relevant for the exploration of muscle metabolism, with acceptable analytical variability and overlap between methods However, the difficult and time-consuming data pre-processing, processing, and statistical analysis steps do not justify systematically combining analytical methods.

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