Nontargeted elucidation of metabolic pathways using stable-isotope tracers and mass spectrometry

Anal Chem. 2010 Aug 1;82(15):6621-8. doi: 10.1021/ac1011574.


Systems level tools for the quantitative analysis of metabolic networks are required to engineer metabolism for biomedical and industrial applications. While current metabolomics techniques enable high-throughput quantification of metabolites, these methods provide minimal information on the rates and connectivity of metabolic pathways. Here we present a new method, nontargeted tracer fate detection (NTFD), that expands upon the concept of metabolomics to solve the above problems. Through the combined use of stable isotope tracers and chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, our computational analysis enables the quantitative detection of all measurable metabolites derived from a specific labeled compound. Without a priori knowledge of a reaction network or compound library, NTFD provides information about relative flux magnitudes into each metabolite pool by determining the mass isotopomer distribution for all labeled compounds. This novel method adds a new dimension to the metabolomics tool box and provides a framework for global analysis of metabolic fluxes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Glutamine / chemistry
  • Glutamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Metabolomics / methods*


  • Glutamine