The gut is home to millions of microbes that exist in a symbiotic relationship with their host. These microbes are fuelled by their host’s diet and the metabolic products are often utilised by the host in processes linked to health and disease. For example, dietary plant polyphenols must be de-glycosylated by gut bacteria before they can be absorbed, complex sugars are converted to health modulating short chain fatty acids, bacterial metabolism is often responsible for drug activation or inactivation and aberrant microbiota have been directly linked to obesity.
Metabolomics comprehensively analyses metabolic states and has become an important tool in microbiome research for its ability to profile materials and bio-fluids (cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, blood, urine, faeces) that may not be directly occupied by microbiota but contain their metabolic products. Combining metabolomics with microbial composition analysis (e.g. from faeces, saliva, or blood) can provide detailed information about the functional state of the microbiome.
The OCMS in collaboration with the McCullagh Group in the Mass Spectrometry Research Facility (Department of Chemistry, utilises a range of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics methods developed specifically for the analysis of microbiome-related samples. These can provide both untargeted and targeted analysis of the microbiome metabolome providing insights into its functional state.