Fast LC-ESI-MS/MS analysis and influence of sampling conditions for gut metabolites in plasma and serum

Sci Rep. 2019 Aug 26;9(1):12370. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-48876-w.


In the past few years, the gut microbiome has been shown to play an important role in various disorders including in particular cardiovascular diseases. Especially the metabolite trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which is produced by gut microbial metabolism, has repeatedly been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular events. Here we report a fast liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method that can analyze the five most important gut metabolites with regards to TMAO in three minutes. Fast liquid chromatography is unconventionally used in this method as an on-line cleanup step to remove the most important ion suppressors leaving the gut metabolites in a cleaned flow through fraction, also known as negative chromatography. We compared different blood matrix types to recommend best sampling practices and found citrated plasma samples demonstrated lower concentrations for all analytes and choline concentrations were significantly higher in serum samples. We demonstrated the applicability of our method by investigating the effect of a standardized liquid meal (SLM) after overnight fasting of 25 healthy individuals on the gut metabolite levels. The SLM did not significantly change the levels of gut metabolites in serum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Blood Specimen Collection
  • Calibration
  • Fasting / blood
  • Female
  • Freezing
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Methylamines / chemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasma / metabolism*
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Serum / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Methylamines
  • trimethyloxamine