Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry in metabolomics research: Mass analyzers in ultra high pressure liquid chromatography coupling

Sara Forcisi, Franco Moritz, Basem Kanawati, Dimitrios Tziotis, Rainer Lehmann, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


The present review gives an introduction into the concept of metabolomics and provides an overview of the analytical tools applied in non-targeted metabolomics with a focus on liquid chromatography (LC). LC is a powerful analytical tool in the study of complex sample matrices. A further development and configuration employing Ultra-High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC) is optimized to provide the largest known liquid chromatographic resolution and peak capacity. Reasonably UHPLC plays an important role in separation and consequent metabolite identification of complex molecular mixtures such as bio-fluids. The most sensitive detectors for these purposes are mass spectrometers. Almost any mass analyzer can be optimized to identify and quantify small pre-defined sets of targets; however, the number of analytes in metabolomics is far greater. Optimized protocols for quantification of large sets of targets may be rendered inapplicable. Results on small target set analyses on different sample matrices are easily comparable with each other. In non-targeted metabolomics there is almost no analytical method which is applicable to all different matrices due to limitations pertaining to mass analyzers and chromatographic tools. The specifications of the most important interfaces and mass analyzers are discussed. We additionally provide an exemplary application in order to demonstrate the level of complexity which remains intractable up to date. The potential of coupling a high field Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer (ICR-FT/MS), the mass analyzer with the largest known mass resolving power, to UHPLC is given with an example of one human pre-treated plasma sample. This experimental example illustrates one way of overcoming the necessity of faster scanning rates in the coupling with UHPLC. The experiment enabled the extraction of thousands of features (analytical signals). A small subset of this compositional space could be mapped into a mass difference network whose topology shows specificity toward putative metabolite classes and retention time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-65
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
StatePublished - 31 May 2013


  • LC-MS
  • Mass difference networking
  • Non-targeted metabolomics
  • TOF-MS


Dive into the research topics of 'Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry in metabolomics research: Mass analyzers in ultra high pressure liquid chromatography coupling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this