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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2015 Aug;34:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2014.10.001. Epub 2014 Oct 22.

Biological insights through nontargeted metabolomics.

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Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland; PhD Program on Systems Biology, Life Science Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address:


Metabolomics is increasingly employed to investigate metabolism and its reciprocal crosstalk with cellular signaling and regulation. In recent years, several nontargeted metabolomics methods providing substantial metabolome coverage have been developed. Here, we review and compare the contributions of traditional targeted and nontargeted metabolomics in advancing different research areas ranging from biotechnology to human health. Although some studies demonstrated the power of nontargeted profiling in generating unexpected and yet highly important insights, we found that most mechanistic links were still revealed by hypothesis-driven targeted methods. Novel computational approaches for formal interpretation of complex metabolic patterns and integration of complementary molecular layers are required to tap the full potential of nontargeted metabolomics for data-driven, discovery-oriented research and rapidly nucleating novel biological insights.

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