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Anal Biochem. 2010 Nov 15;406(2):105-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ab.2010.07.015. Epub 2010 Jul 23.

Differences in metabolite profile between blood plasma and serum.

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Lab of Metabolomics, Key Laboratory of Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing 21009, China.


In metabolomic research, blood plasma and serum have been considered to possess similar compositions and properties. Their perceived equivalence has resulted in researchers choosing arbitrarily between serum and plasma for analysis. Here, routine serum and plasma were prepared and their low-molecular-weight compounds were determined using gas chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Principal components analysis was applied to process the acquired data, and marked differences in metabolite profiles were observed between serum and plasma. Of the 72 identified compounds, 36 (50%) discriminate serum from plasma, with 29 and 7 metabolites showing a significantly higher abundance (t test, P<0.05) in serum and plasma, respectively. Incubation of blood had distinct effects on the analyte peak areas, with the effects being more pronounced for plasma than for serum and more pronounced for a shorter incubation than for a longer incubation. These results highlight the importance in choosing serum or plasma as the analytical sample and in stipulating the incubation time. Because incubation affected the analyte peak areas less in serum than in plasma, we recommend serum as the sample of choice in metabolomic studies.

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