Metabolite concentrations, fluxes, and free energies constitute the basis for understanding and controlling metabolism. Mass spectrometry and stable isotopes are integral tools in quantifying these metabolic features. For absolute metabolite concentration and flux measurement, 13C internal standards and tracers have been the gold standard. In contrast, no established methods exist for comprehensive thermodynamic quantitation under physiological environments. Recently, using high-resolution mass spectrometry and multi-isotope tracing, flux quantitation has been increasingly adopted in broader metabolism. The improved flux quantitation led to determination of Gibbs free energy of reaction (ΔG) in central carbon metabolism using a relationship between reaction reversibility and thermodynamic driving force. Here we highlight recent advances in multi-isotope tracing for metabolic flux and free energy analysis.
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