Strategies for large-scale targeted metabolomics quantification by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry
Advances in liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) instruments and analytical strategies have brought about great progress in targeted metabolomics analysis. This methodology is now capable of performing precise targeted measurement of dozens or hundreds of metabolites in complex biological samples. Classic targeted quantification assay using the multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode has been the foundation of high-quality metabolite quantitation. However, utilization of this strategy in biological studies has been limited by its relatively low metabolite coverage and throughput capacity. A number of methods for large-scale targeted metabolomics assay which have been developed overcome these limitations. These strategies have enabled extended metabolite coverage which is defined as targeting of large numbers of metabolites, while maintaining reliable quantification performance. These recently developed techniques thus bridge the gap between traditional targeted metabolite quantification and untargeted metabolomics profiling, and have proven to be powerful tools for metabolomics study. Although the LC-MRM-MS strategy has been used widely in large-scale metabolomics quantification analysis due to its fast scan speed and ideal analytic stability, there are still drawbacks which are due to the low resolution of the triple quadrupole instruments used for MRM assays. New approaches have been developed to expand the options for large-scale targeted metabolomics study, using high-resolution instruments such as parallel reaction monitoring (PRM). MRM and PRM-based techniques are now attractive strategies for quantitative metabolomics analysis and high-throughput biomarker discovery. Here we provide an overview of the major developments in LC-MS-based strategies for large-scale targeted metabolomics quantification in biological samples. The advantages of LC-MRM/PRM-MS based analytical strategies which may be used in multiplexed and high throughput quantitation for a wide range of metabolites are highlighted. In particular, PRM and MRM strategies are compared, and we summarize the work flow commonly used for large-scale targeted metabolomics analysis including sample preparation, LC separation and data analysis, as well as recent applications in biological studies.