What is Metabolomics?

Metabolomics is broadly defined as the comprehensive measurement of all metabolites and low-molecular-weight molecules in a biological sample.

A metabolite is an intermediate or end product of metabolism. Endogenous metabolites (not to be confused with drug metabolites) represent a diverse group of chemical compounds that are naturally produced in the body, including lipids, amino acids, peptides, nucleic acids, and organic acids. Metabolites and their concentrations can reflect the biochemical activity and state of cells or tissues. On the other hand, drug metabolites result from metabolizing a drug by the body. Metabolites can also form from the foods we consume, the microbiota in the body, as well as many chemical processes that occur in a biological system. Metabolomics broadly encompasses all such classes of metabolites present in a biological sample.

Metabolomics Figure

Practical applications of metabolomics include:

  • Activity information about possible novel drugs and drug scaffolds
  • Identify targets for drug development and suggest binding partners of compounds
  • Pre-clinical biomarker identification
  • Discovery of novel natural products

At Emery Pharma, we have a comprehensive platform with advanced instruments including UPLC-HR MS, GC-MS, UPLC-QqQ-MS/MS, and NMR to address all forms of untargeted and targeted metabolomics needs. Our metabolomics services support the pharmaceutical, biomedical, food, and agricultural industry. We are happy to support our clients with in-house assays or project-specific method development, implementation, and data analysis.

Analytical Solutions:

  1. Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography-High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-HRMS) – Multi-omics service includes analysis of proteins, lipids, metabolites, electrolytes, and other small molecules.
  2. Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography-Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-QqQ-MS/MS): Development of highly sensitive and specific analytical methods yielding lower detection and quantitation limits analysis in drug metabolism, pharmacokinetics, environmental studies, and biological analyses.
  3. Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and Flame Ionization Detector (GC-MS and GC-FID): Identify and quantify unknown contaminants, environmental analysis, trace elements in samples, residual solvents present within pharmaceutical products and metabolic flux analysis (MFA). Based on the sample type, we employ different sample preparation and sampling methods such as derivatization, and headspace analysis.
  4. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy: Multiple aspects of NMR, including 1H, 13C, and two-dimensional studies such as Correlation spectroscopy (COSY), exchange spectroscopy (EXSY), Nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy (NOESY) and total correlation spectroscopy (TOCSY), and heteronuclear correlation experiments, such as HSQC, HMQC, and HMBC. Perform expanded quantitative metabolic analysis on wide range of samples including cells extracts/cell secretions (media), human and animal tissues and biopsy extracts, body fluids (including blood, plasma, serum, urine, cerebral/pancreatic/prostatic fluids, etc.).

Metabolomics Study Types:

  1. Targeted metabolomics – This workflow aims to provide quantitative estimates for a defined group of biochemically annotated metabolites and allow for the evaluation of specific biochemical hypotheses. Triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (QqQ) and NMR-based assays are most common for targeted analysis.
  2. Untargeted metabolomics – These studies are characterized by the simultaneous assessment (usually semi-quantitative) for all observable metabolites from a biological sample. Untargeted workflows thus provide a global overview, based on which specific hypotheses may be generated. Usually, a high-resolution mass spectrometer or HMRS (QTOF, QqTOF, Orbitrap, etc.) is common for untargeted analysis. Further GC-MS can be used to assess phytohormones by converting into their more volatile, thermally stable derivatives.
  3. Lipidomics – A branch of metabolomics specifically focused on the analysis and profiling of lipids. Lipidomics workflows can be conducted either in a targeted or an untargeted fashion. There are specific considerations when dealing with lipids around separation and detection of individual lipid moieties or classes e.g., isobaric nature of many lipids, wide polarity ranges from polar (phospholipids) to highly non-polar (long-chained triglycerides). Depending on the nature of the study, GC-MS/FID (e.g., FAME analysis), HRMS with ion mobility (untargeted lipidomics with separation of phospholipids), NMR or TLC (lipid classes) may be employed.
  4. Metabolomic flux analysis – Most metabolomics studies described above assume a static biochemical profile, and generally offer a single-timepoint data for biological samples. Metabolic flux analysis is employed to study metabolic fluxes, i.e., how metabolite levels change within a specific network is changing or interconverting over time. Metabolic flux analyses offer powerful insights into the dynamic nature of an organismal function. Depending on the study, the metabolite network in question, HRMS or GC-MS may be used.

Our experienced team of analytical scientists can recommend the best testing and analysis procedure for your needs. If you have any questions or specific requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us.