Dansylation metabolite assay: a simple and rapid method for sample amount normalization in metabolomics

Anal Chem. 2014 Oct 7;86(19):9428-33. doi: 10.1021/ac503359v. Epub 2014 Sep 29.


Metabolomics involves the comparison of the metabolomes of individual samples from two or more groups to reveal the metabolic differences. In order to measure the metabolite concentration differences accurately, using the same amount of starting materials is essential. In this work, we describe a simple and rapid method for sample amount normalization. It is based on dansylation labeling of the amine and phenol submetabolome of an individual sample, followed by solvent extraction of the labeled metabolites and ultraviolet (UV) absorbance measurement using a microplate reader. A calibration curve of a mixture of 17 dansyl-labeled amino acid standards is used to determine the total concentration of the labeled metabolites in a sample. According to the measured concentrations of individual samples, the volume of an aliquot taken from each sample is adjusted so that the same sample amount is taken for subsequent metabolome comparison. As an example of applications, this dansylation metabolite assay method is shown to be useful in comparative metabolome analysis of two different E. coli strains using a differential chemical isotope labeling LC-MS platform. Because of the low cost of equipment and reagents and the simple procedure used in the assay, this method can be readily implemented. We envisage that, this assay, which is analogous to the bicinchoninic acid (BCA) protein assay widely used in proteomics, will be applicable to many types of samples for quantitative metabolomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / chemistry
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Chromatography, Liquid / standards*
  • Dansyl Compounds / chemistry*
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry / standards*
  • Metabolome*
  • Metabolomics / instrumentation
  • Metabolomics / standards*
  • Phenols / chemistry
  • Reference Standards


  • Amines
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Dansyl Compounds
  • Phenols