Metabolomics: A Primer

Trends Biochem Sci. 2017 Apr;42(4):274-284. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2017.01.004. Epub 2017 Feb 11.


Metabolomics generates a profile of small molecules that are derived from cellular metabolism and can directly reflect the outcome of complex networks of biochemical reactions, thus providing insights into multiple aspects of cellular physiology. Technological advances have enabled rapid and increasingly expansive data acquisition with samples as small as single cells; however, substantial challenges in the field remain. In this primer we provide an overview of metabolomics, especially mass spectrometry (MS)-based metabolomics, which uses liquid chromatography (LC) for separation, and discuss its utilities and limitations. We identify and discuss several areas at the frontier of metabolomics. Our goal is to give the reader a sense of what might be accomplished when conducting a metabolomics experiment, now and in the near future.

Keywords: Metabolomics; mass spectrometry; metabolic biology; metabolic network; quantitative biology.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolomics*