Great strides have been made over the past decade toward comprehensive study of metabolism. Mass spectrometry (MS) has played a central role by enabling measurement of many metabolites simultaneously. Tracking metabolite labeling from stable isotope tracers can in addition reveal pathway activities. Here, we describe the basics of metabolite measurement by MS, including sample preparation, metabolomic analysis, and data interpretation. In addition, drawing on examples of successful experiments, we highlight the ways in which metabolomics and isotope tracing can illuminate biology.
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