Although metals are essential for the molecular machineries of life, systematic methods for discovering metal-small molecule complexes from biological samples are limited. Here, we describe a two-step native electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry method, in which post-column pH adjustment and metal infusion are combined with ion identity molecular networking, a rule-based data analysis workflow. This method enabled the identification of metal-binding compounds in complex samples based on defined mass (m/z) offsets of ion species with the same chromatographic profiles. As this native electrospray metabolomics approach is suited to the use of any liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry system to explore the binding of any metal, this method has the potential to become an essential strategy for elucidating metal-binding molecules in biology.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.