Optimized preprocessing of ultra-performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry urinary metabolic profiles for improved information recovery

Anal Chem. 2011 Aug 1;83(15):5864-72. doi: 10.1021/ac201065j. Epub 2011 Jul 5.


Ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (UPLC/MS) has been used increasingly for measuring changes of low molecular weight metabolites in biofluids/tissues in response to biological challenges such as drug toxicity and disease processes. Typically samples show high variability in concentration, and the derived metabolic profiles have a heteroscedastic noise structure characterized by increasing variance as a function of increased signal intensity. These sources of experimental and instrumental noise substantially complicate information recovery when statistical tools are used. We apply and compare several preprocessing procedures and introduce a statistical error model to account for these bioanalytical complexities. In particular, the use of total intensity, median fold change, locally weighted scatter plot smoothing, and quantile normalizations to reduce extraneous variance induced by sample dilution were compared. We demonstrate that the UPLC/MS peak intensities of urine samples should respond linearly to variable sample dilution across the intensity range. While all four studied normalization methods performed reasonably well in reducing dilution-induced variation of urine samples in the absence of biological variation, the median fold change normalization is least compromised by the biologically relevant changes in mixture components and is thus preferable. Additionally, the application of a subsequent log-based transformation was successful in stabilizing the variance with respect to peak intensity, confirming the predominant influence of multiplicative noise in peak intensities from UPLC/MS-derived metabolic profile data sets. We demonstrate that variance-stabilizing transformation and normalization are critical preprocessing steps that can benefit greatly metabolic information recovery from such data sets when widely applied chemometric methods are used.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*