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Anal Chem. 2008 Jan 15;80(2):421-9. Epub 2007 Dec 18.

Multiple ionization mass spectrometry strategy used to reveal the complexity of metabolomics.

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Department of Molecular Biology and The Center for Mass Spectrometry, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla California 92037, USA.


A multiple ionization mass spectrometry strategy is presented based on the analysis of human serum extracts. Chromatographic separation was interfaced inline with the atmospheric pressure ionization techniques electrospray ionization (ESI) and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) in both positive (+) and negative (-) ionization modes. Furthermore, surface-based matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and desorption ionization on silicon (DIOS) mass spectrometry were also integrated with the separation through fraction collection and offline mass spectrometry. Processing of raw data using the XCMS software resulted in time-aligned ion features, which are defined as a unique m/z at a unique retention time. The ion feature lists obtained through LC-MS with ESI and APCI interfaces in both +/- ionization modes were compared, and unique ion tables were generated. Nonredundant, unique ion features, were defined as mass numbers for which no mass numbers corresponding to [M + H](+), [M - H](-), or [M + Na](+) were observed in the other ionization methods at the same retention time. Analysis of the extracted serum using ESI for both (+) and (-) ions resulted in >90% additional unique ions being detected in the (-) ESI mode. Complementing the ESI analysis with APCI resulted in an additional approximately 20% increase in unique ions. Finally, ESI/APCI ionization was combined with fraction collection and offline-MALDI and DIOS mass spectrometry. The parts of the total ion current chromatograms in the LC-MS acquired data corresponding to collected fractions were summed, and m/z lists were compiled and compared to the m/z lists obtained from the DIOS/MALDI spectra. It was observed that, for each fraction, DIOS accounted for approximately 50% of the unique ions detected. These results suggest that true global metabolomics will require multiple ionization technologies to address the inherent metabolite diversity and therefore the complexity in and of metabolomics studies.

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