Ruggedness testing of liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry system components using microbiome-relevant methods and matrices

J Microbiol Methods. 2020 Oct;177:106020. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2020.106020. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


Recently, an opportunity to perform a broad ruggedness assessment of our liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) system presented itself during the analytical planning phase of a large-scale human fecal microbiome study. The specific aim of this project was to study the microbial-mediated metabolism of a targeted set of bile acids/salts by mixed bacterial communities cultured from the feces of 12 healthy volunteers when grown in a custom growth medium and following exposure to different clinically-relevant antibiotics. The magnitude of this study offered a rare opportunity to significantly stress procedures and LC-MS/MS system components comprised in our bile acid/salt targeted metabolomics method. With this second specific aim in mind, we modified the sample analysis plan to include a series of figure-of-merit (FoM)-based tests that are commonly used in regulated bioanalytical labs to assess LC and MS system ruggedness for a specific assay - these FoM-based testing parameters were monitored continuously over the course of sample analysis and the results are presented in this report. In total, the assessment included 1206 sequential injections (180 calibration standards, 136 blank-internal standard samples, and 890 diluted medium samples) that took place over 8-days. Completion of the 8-days of non-stop sample analysis revealed no critical hardware or software failures, and the analysis of the FoM-based tests indicated no observable degradation of system performance over the number of samples and time tested. The FoM-based test metrics presented may be used as a template to assess the ruggedness of any LC-MS/MS-based targeted metabolomics workflow.

Keywords: Bile acids; Bile salts; Bioanalytical chemistry; High-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; High-throughput sample analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • Bacteriological Techniques / methods*
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Calibration
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Feces
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics
  • Microbiota*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*


  • Bile Acids and Salts