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Anal Chem. 2010 Sep 15;82(18):7779-86. doi: 10.1021/ac101722e.

Optimization and evaluation of metabolite extraction protocols for untargeted metabolic profiling of liver samples by UPLC-MS.

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Biomolecular Medicine, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Faculty of Medicine, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Imperial College London, South Kensington, SW7 2AZ, UK.


A series of six protocols were evaluated for UPLC-MS based untargeted metabolic profiling of liver extracts in terms of reproducibility and number of metabolite features obtained. These protocols, designed to extract both polar and nonpolar metabolites, were based on (i) a two stage extraction approach or (ii) a simultaneous extraction in a biphasic mixture, employing different volumes and combinations of extraction and resuspension solvents. A multivariate statistical strategy was developed to allow comparison of the multidimensional variation between the methods. The optimal protocol for profiling both polar and nonpolar metabolites was found to be an aqueous extraction with methanol/water followed by an organic extraction with dichloromethane/methanol, with resuspension of the dried extracts in methanol/water before UPLC-MS analysis. This protocol resulted in a median CV of feature intensities among experimental replicates of <20% for aqueous extracts and <30% for organic extracts. These data demonstrate the robustness of the proposed protocol for extracting metabolites from liver samples and make it well suited for untargeted liver profiling in studies exploring xenobiotic hepatotoxicity and clinical investigations of liver disease. The generic nature of this protocol facilitates its application to other tissues, for example, brain or lung, enhancing its utility in clinical and toxicological studies.

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