Sample normalization methods in quantitative metabolomics

J Chromatogr A. 2016 Jan 22;1430:80-95. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2015.12.007. Epub 2015 Dec 10.


To reveal metabolomic changes caused by a biological event in quantitative metabolomics, it is critical to use an analytical tool that can perform accurate and precise quantification to examine the true concentration differences of individual metabolites found in different samples. A number of steps are involved in metabolomic analysis including pre-analytical work (e.g., sample collection and storage), analytical work (e.g., sample analysis) and data analysis (e.g., feature extraction and quantification). Each one of them can influence the quantitative results significantly and thus should be performed with great care. Among them, the total sample amount or concentration of metabolites can be significantly different from one sample to another. Thus, it is critical to reduce or eliminate the effect of total sample amount variation on quantification of individual metabolites. In this review, we describe the importance of sample normalization in the analytical workflow with a focus on mass spectrometry (MS)-based platforms, discuss a number of methods recently reported in the literature and comment on their applicability in real world metabolomics applications. Sample normalization has been sometimes ignored in metabolomics, partially due to the lack of a convenient means of performing sample normalization. We show that several methods are now available and sample normalization should be performed in quantitative metabolomics where the analyzed samples have significant variations in total sample amounts.

Keywords: Liquid chromatography; Mass spectrometry; Metabolite quantification; Metabolomics; Quantitative metabolomic profiling; Sample normalization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analytic Sample Preparation Methods / methods*
  • Analytic Sample Preparation Methods / standards*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Metabolomics / standards*
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Specimen Handling / standards