Separation of small metabolites and lipids in spectra from biopsies by diffusion-weighted HR-MAS NMR: a feasibility study
High Resolution Magic Angle Spinning (HR-MAS) NMR allows metabolic characterization of biopsies. HR-MAS spectra from tissues of most organs show strong lipid contributions that are overlapping metabolite regions, which hamper metabolite estimation. Metabolite quantification and analysis would benefit from a separation of lipids and small metabolites. Generally, a relaxation filter is used to reduce lipid contributions. However, the strong relaxation filter required to eliminate most of the lipids also reduces the signals for small metabolites. The aim of our study was therefore to investigate different diffusion editing techniques in order to employ diffusion differences for separating lipid and small metabolite contributions in the spectra from different organs for unbiased metabonomic analysis. Thus, 1D and 2D diffusion measurements were performed, and pure lipid spectra that were obtained at strong diffusion weighting (DW) were subtracted from those obtained at low DW, which include both small metabolites and lipids. This subtraction yielded almost lipid free small metabolite spectra from muscle tissue. Further improved separation was obtained by combining a 1D diffusion sequence with a T2-filter, with the subtraction method eliminating residual lipids from the spectra. Similar results obtained for biopsies of different organs suggest that this method is applicable in various tissue types. The elimination of lipids from HR-MAS spectra and the resulting less biased assessment of small metabolites have potential to remove ambiguities in the interpretation of metabonomic results. This is demonstrated in a reproducibility study on biopsies from human muscle.