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Anal Chem. 2017 Jul 18;89(14):7667-7674. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b01624. Epub 2017 Jun 27.

Anion-Exchange Chromatography Coupled to High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry: A Powerful Tool for Merging Targeted and Non-targeted Metabolomics.

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Department of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Vienna , Waehringer Strasse 38, 1090 Vienna, Austria.
ISOtopic Solutions , Waehringerstrasse 38, 1090 Vienna, Austria.
Institute of Cancer Research, Department of Internal Medicine I, Medical University of Vienna , Borschkegasse 8a, 1090 Vienna, Austria.
Vienna Metabolomics Center (VIME), University of Vienna , Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


In this work, simultaneous targeted metabolic profiling by isotope dilution and non-targeted fingerprinting is proposed for cancer cell studies. The novel streamlined metabolomics workflow was established using anion-exchange chromatography (IC) coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS). The separation time of strong anion-exchange (2 mm column, flow rate 380 μL min-1, injection volume 5 μL) could be decreased to 25 min for a target list comprising organic acids, sugars, sugar phosphates, and nucleotides. Internal standardization by fully 13C labeled Pichia pastoris extracts enabled absolute quantification of the primary metabolites in adherent cancer cell models. Limits of detection (LODs) in the low nanomolar range and excellent intermediate precisions of the isotopologue ratios (on average <5%, N = 5, over 40 h) were observed. As a result of internal standardization, linear dynamic ranges over 4 orders of magnitude (5 nM-50 μM, R2 > 0.99) were obtained. Experiments on drug-sensitive versus resistant SW480 cancer cells showed the feasibility of merging analytical tasks into one analytical run. Comparing fingerprinting with and without internal standard proved that the presence of the 13C labeled yeast extract required for absolute quantification was not detrimental to non-targeted data evaluation. Several interesting metabolites were discovered by accurate mass and comparing MS2 spectra (acquired in ddMS2 mode) with spectral libraries. Significant differences revealed distinct metabolic phenotypes of drug-sensitive and resistant SW480 cells.

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