Metabolomic analysis of key central carbon metabolism carboxylic acids as their 3-nitrophenylhydrazones by UPLC/ESI-MS

Electrophoresis. 2013 Oct;34(19):2891-900. doi: 10.1002/elps.201200601. Epub 2013 Jul 8.


Multiple hydroxy-, keto-, di-, and tri-carboxylic acids are among the cellular metabolites of central carbon metabolism (CCM). Sensitive and reliable analysis of these carboxylates is important for many biological and cell engineering studies. In this work, we examined 3-nitrophenylhydrazine as a derivatizing reagent and optimized the reaction conditions for the measurement of ten CCM-related carboxylic compounds, including glycolate, lactate, malate, fumarate, succinate, citrate, isocitrate, pyruvate, oxaloacetate, and α-ketoglutarate as their 3-nitrophenylhydrazones using LC/MS with ESI. With the derivatization protocol which we have developed, and using negative-ion multiple-reaction monitoring on a triple-quadrupole instrument, all of the carboxylates showed good linearity within a dynamic range of ca. 200 to more than 2000. The on-column LODs and LOQs were from high femtomoles to low picomoles. The analytical accuracies for eight of the ten analytes were determined to be between 89.5 to 114.8% (CV≤7.4%, n = 6). Using a QTOF instrument, the isotopic distribution patterns of these carboxylates, extracted from a (13) C-labeled mouse heart, were successfully determined by UPLC/MS with full-mass detection, indicating the possible utility of this analytical method for metabolic flux analysis. In summary, this work demonstrates an efficient chemical derivatization LC/MS method for metabolomic analysis of these key CCM intermediates in a biological matrix.

Keywords: 3-Nitrophenylhydrazine; Carboxylic acid; Central carbon metabolism; Chemical derivatization; Isotope-resolved metabolic profiling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Carboxylic Acids / analysis*
  • Carboxylic Acids / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Mice
  • Myocardium / chemistry
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Phenylhydrazines / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • 3-nitrophenylhydrazine
  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Phenylhydrazines
  • Carbon