Nontargeted metabolome analysis by use of Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Mass Spectrometry

OMICS. 2002;6(3):217-34. doi: 10.1089/15362310260256882.


Advanced functional genomic tools now allow the parallel and high-throughput analyses of gene and protein expression. Although this information is crucial to our understanding of gene function, it offers insufficient insight into phenotypic changes associated with metabolism. Here we introduce a high-capacity Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Mass Spectrometry (FTMS)-based method, capable of nontargeted metabolic analysis and suitable for rapid screening of similarities and dissimilarities in large collections of biological samples (e.g., plant mutant populations). Separation of the metabolites was achieved solely by ultra-high mass resolution; Identification of the putative metabolite or class of metabolites to which it belongs was achieved by determining the elemental composition of the metabolite based upon the accurate mass determination; and relative quantitation was achieved by comparing the absolute intensities of each mass using internal calibration. Crude plant extracts were introduced via direct (continuous flow) injection and ionized by either electrospray ionization (ESI) or atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) in both positive or negative ionization modes. We first analyzed four consecutive stages of strawberry fruit development and identified changes in the levels of a large range of masses corresponding to known fruit metabolites. The data also revealed novel information on the metabolic transition from immature to ripe fruit. In another set of experiments, the method was used to track changes in metabolic profiles of tobacco flowers overexpressing a strawberry MYB transcription factor and altered in petal color. Only nine masses appeared different between transgenic and control plants, among which was the mass corresponding to cyanidin-3-rhamnoglucoside, the main flower pigment. The results demonstrate the feasibility and utility of the FTMS approach for a nontargeted and rapid metabolic "fingerprinting," which will greatly speed up current efforts to study the metabolome and derive gene function in any biological system.

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Down-Regulation
  • Fragaria / metabolism
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Extracts / analysis*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / methods*
  • Tobacco / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Up-Regulation


  • Plant Extracts