Identification of bioactive metabolites using activity metabolomics

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2019 Jun;20(6):353-367. doi: 10.1038/s41580-019-0108-4.


The metabolome, the collection of small-molecule chemical entities involved in metabolism, has traditionally been studied with the aim of identifying biomarkers in the diagnosis and prediction of disease. However, the value of metabolome analysis (metabolomics) has been redefined from a simple biomarker identification tool to a technology for the discovery of active drivers of biological processes. It is now clear that the metabolome affects cellular physiology through modulation of other 'omics' levels, including the genome, epigenome, transcriptome and proteome. In this Review, we focus on recent progress in using metabolomics to understand how the metabolome influences other omics and, by extension, to reveal the active role of metabolites in physiology and disease. This concept of utilizing metabolomics to perform activity screens to identify biologically active metabolites - which we term activity metabolomics - is already having a broad impact on biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Metabolome*
  • Metabolomics*


  • Biomarkers