Metabolomics methods often encounter trade-offs between quantification accuracy and coverage, with truly comprehensive coverage only attainable through a multitude of complementary assays. Due to the lack of standardization and the variety of metabolomics assays, it is difficult to integrate datasets across studies or assays. To inform metabolomics platform selection, with a focus on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we review platform use and sample sizes in psychiatric metabolomics studies and then evaluate five prominent metabolomics platforms for coverage and performance, including intra-/inter-assay precision, accuracy, and linearity. We found performance was variable between metabolite classes, but comparable across targeted and untargeted approaches. Within all platforms, precision and accuracy were highly variable across classes, ranging from 0.9-63.2% (coefficient of variation) and 0.6-99.1% for accuracy to reference plasma. Several classes had high inter-assay variance, potentially impeding dissociation of a biological signal, including glycerophospholipids, organooxygen compounds, and fatty acids. Coverage was platform-specific and ranged from 16-70% of PTSD-associated metabolites. Non-overlapping coverage is challenging; however, benefits of applying multiple metabolomics technologies must be weighed against cost, biospecimen availability, platform-specific normative levels, and challenges in merging datasets. Our findings and open-access cross-platform dataset can inform platform selection and dataset integration based on platform-specific coverage breadth/overlap and metabolite-specific performance.
Keywords: depression; lipidomics; liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC−MS); mass spectrometry; metabolites; metabolomics; nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR); platform comparison; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); ring trial.