Two birds with one stone: doing metabolomics with your proteomics kit.
Fischer R., Bowness P., Kessler BM.
Proteomic research facilities and laboratories are facing increasing demands for the integration of biological data from multiple '-OMICS' approaches. The aim to fully understand biological processes requires the integrated study of genomes, proteomes and metabolomes. While genomic and proteomic workflows are different, the study of the metabolome overlaps significantly with the latter, both in instrumentation and methodology. However, chemical diversity complicates an easy and direct access to the metabolome by mass spectrometry (MS). The present review provides an introduction into metabolomics workflows from the viewpoint of proteomic researchers. We compare the physicochemical properties of proteins and peptides with metabolites/small molecules to establish principle differences between these analyte classes based on human data. We highlight the implications this may have on sample preparation, separation, ionisation, detection and data analysis. We argue that a typical proteomic workflow (nLC-MS) can be exploited for the detection of a number of aliphatic and aromatic metabolites, including fatty acids, lipids, prostaglandins, di/tripeptides, steroids and vitamins, thereby providing a straightforward entry point for metabolomics-based studies. Limitations and requirements are discussed as well as extensions to the LC-MS workflow to expand the range of detectable molecular classes without investing in dedicated instrumentation such as GC-MS, CE-MS or NMR.