Systematic Evaluation of Liquid Chromatography (LC) Column Combinations for Application in Two-Dimensional LC Metabolomic Studies

Maria Grübner, Andreas Dunkel, Frank Steiner, Thomas Hofmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In comparison to proteomics, the application of two-dimensional liquid chromatography (2D LC) in the field of metabolomics is still premature. One reason might be the elevated chemical complexity and the associated challenge of selecting proper separation conditions in each dimension. As orthogonality of dimensions is a major issue, the present study aimed for the identification of successful stationary phase combinations. To determine the degree of orthogonality, first, six different metrics, namely, Pearson’s correlation coefficient (1 - |R|), the nearest-neighbor distances (H̅NND), the “asterisk equations” (AO), and surface coverage by bins (SCG), convex hulls (SCCH), and α-convex hulls (SCαH), were critically assessed by 15 artificial 2D data sets, and a systematic parameter optimization of α-convex hulls was conducted. SGG, SCαHwith α = 0.1, andH̅NNDgenerated valid results with sensitivity toward space utilization and data distribution and, therefore, were applied to pairs of experimental retention time sets obtained for >350 metabolites, selected to represent the chemical space of human urine. Normalized retention data were obtained for 23 chromatographic setups, comprising reversed-phase (RP), hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC), and mixed-mode separation systems with an ion exchange (IEX) contribution. As expected, no single LC setting provided separation of all considered analytes, but while conventional RP×HILIC combinations appeared rather complementary than orthogonal, the incorporation of IEX properties into the RP dimension substantially increased the 2D potential. Eventually, one of the most promising column combinations was implemented for an offline 2D LC time-of-flight mass spectrometry analysis of a lyophilized urine sample. Targeted screening resulted in a total of 164 detected metabolites and confirmed the outstanding coverage of the 2D retention space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12565-12573
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number37
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2021


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