Advances in metabolite identification

Bioanalysis. 2011 Aug;3(15):1769-82. doi: 10.4155/bio.11.155.


One of the central challenges to metabolomics is metabolite identification. Regardless of whether one uses so-called 'targeted' or 'untargeted' metabolomics, eventually all paths lead to the requirement of identifying (and quantifying) certain key metabolites. Indeed, without metabolite identification, the results of any metabolomic analysis are biologically and chemically uninterpretable. Given the chemical diversity of most metabolomes and the character of most metabolomic data, metabolite identification is intrinsically difficult. Consequently a great deal of effort in metabolomics over the past decade has been focused on making metabolite identification better, faster and cheaper. This review describes some of the newly emerging techniques or technologies in metabolomics that are making metabolite identification easier and more robust. In particular, it focuses on advances in metabolite identification that have occurred over the past 2 to 3 years concerning the technologies, methodologies and software as applied to NMR, MS and separation science. The strengths and limitations of some of these approaches are discussed along with some of the important trends in metabolite identification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolome*
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Software