High-throughput tissue extraction protocol for NMR- and MS-based metabolomics

Anal Biochem. 2008 Jan 15;372(2):204-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ab.2007.10.002. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


In metabolomics, tissues typically are extracted by grinding in liquid nitrogen followed by the stepwise addition of solvents. This is time-consuming and difficult to automate, and the multiple steps can introduce variability. Here we optimize tissue extraction methods compatible with high-throughput, reproducible nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy- and mass spectrometry (MS)-based metabolomics. Previously, we concluded that methanol/chloroform/water extraction is preferable for metabolomics, and we further optimized this here using fish liver and an automated Precellys 24 bead-based homogenizer, allowing rapid extraction of multiple samples without carryover. We compared three solvent addition strategies: stepwise, two-step, and all solvents simultaneously. Then we evaluated strategies for improved partitioning of metabolites between solvent phases, including the addition of extra water and different partition times. Polar extracts were analyzed by NMR and principal components analysis, and the two-step approach was preferable based on lipid partitioning, reproducibility, yield, and throughput. Longer partitioning or extra water increased yield and decreased lipids in the polar phase but caused metabolic decay in these extracts. Overall, we conclude that the two-step method with extra water provides good quality data but that the two-step method with 10 min partitioning provides a more accurate snapshot of the metabolome. Finally, when validating the two-step strategy using NMR and MS metabolomics, we showed that technical variability was considerably smaller than biological variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Flatfishes
  • Flounder
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Metabolism / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Solvents


  • Solvents