Qualitative metabolome analysis of human cerebrospinal fluid by 13C-/12C-isotope dansylation labeling combined with liquid chromatography Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry

J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2011 Feb;22(2):339-47. doi: 10.1007/s13361-010-0033-4. Epub 2011 Jan 27.


Metabolome analysis of human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is challenging because of low abundance of metabolites present in a small volume of sample. We describe and apply a sensitive isotope labeling LC-MS technique for qualitative analysis of the CSF metabolome. After a CSF sample is divided into two aliquots, they are labeled by (13)C-dansyl and (12)C-dansyl chloride, respectively. The differentially labeled aliquots are then mixed and subjected to LC-MS using Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR MS). Dansylation offers significant improvement in the performance of chromatography separation and detection sensitivity. Moreover, peaks detected in the mass spectra can be readily analyzed for ion pair recognition and database search based on accurate mass and/or retention time information. It is shown that about 14,000 features can be detected in a 25-min LC-FTICR MS run of a dansyl-labeled CSF sample, from which about 500 metabolites can be profiled. Results from four CSF samples are compared to gauge the detectability of metabolites by this method. About 261 metabolites are commonly detected in replicate runs of four samples. In total, 1132 unique metabolite ion pairs are detected and 347 pairs (31%) matched with at least one metabolite in the Human Metabolome Database. We also report a dansylation library of 220 standard compounds and, using this library, about 85 metabolites can be positively identified. Among them, 21 metabolites have never been reported to be associated with CSF. These results illustrate that the dansylation LC-FTICR MS method can be used to analyze the CSF metabolome in a more comprehensive manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / chemistry*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Dansyl Compounds
  • Databases, Factual
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Metabolome*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Dansyl Compounds
  • dansyl chloride