Quantification of diacylglycerol and triacylglycerol species in human fecal samples by flow injection Fourier transform mass spectrometry

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2020 Apr;412(10):2315-2326. doi: 10.1007/s00216-020-02416-y. Epub 2020 Mar 21.


The intestinal microbiome plays an important role in human health and disease and fecal materials reflect the microbial activity. Thus, analysis of fecal metabolites provides insight in metabolic interactions between gut microbiota and host organism. In this work, we applied flow injection analysis coupled to Fourier transform mass spectrometry (FIA-FTMS) to identify and quantify lipid species in human fecal samples. Fecal homogenates were subjected to lipid extraction and analyzed by FIA-FTMS. The analysis of different subjects revealed a vast heterogeneity of lipid species abundance. The majority of samples displayed prominent signals of triacylglycerol (TG) and diacylglycerol (DG) species that could be verified by MS2 spectra. Therefore, we focused on the quantification of TG and DG. Method validation included limit of quantification, linearity, evaluation of matrix effects, recovery, and reproducibility. The validation experiments demonstrated the suitability of the method, with exception for approximately 10% of samples, where we observed coefficients of variation higher than 15%. Impaired reproducibility was related to sample inhomogeneity and could not be improved by additional sample preparation steps. Additionally, these experiments demonstrated that compared with aqueous samples, samples containing isopropanol showed higher amounts of DG, presumably due to lysis of bacteria and increased TG lipolysis. These effects were sample-specific and substantiate the high heterogeneity of fecal materials as well as the need for further evaluation of pre-analytic conditions. In summary, FIA-FTMS offers a fast and accurate tool to quantify DG and TG species and is suitable to provide insight into the fecal lipidome and its role in health and disease.

Keywords: Diglyceride; Feces; High-resolution mass spectrometry; Lipidomics; Microbiome; Triglyceride.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Diglycerides / chemistry*
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Flow Injection Analysis / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Triglycerides / chemistry*


  • Diglycerides
  • Triglycerides