A Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry-Based Method for the Quantification of Short Chain Fatty Acids

Metabolites. 2022 Feb 11;12(2):170. doi: 10.3390/metabo12020170.


Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) are produced by the gut microbiota and are present in varying concentrations in the intestinal lumen, in feces but also in the circulatory system. By interacting with different cell types in the body, they have a great impact on host metabolism and their exact quantification is indispensable. Here, we present a derivatization-free method for the gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) based quantification of SCFAs in plasma, feces, cecum, liver and adipose tissue. SCFAs were extracted using ethanol and concentrated by alkaline vacuum centrifugation. To allow volatility for separation by GC, samples were acidified with succinic acid. Analytes were detected in selected ion monitoring (SIM) mode and quantified using deuterated internal standards and external calibration curves. Method validation rendered excellent linearity (R2 > 0.99 for most analytes), good recovery rates (95-117%), and good reproducibility (RSD: 1-4.5%). Matrix effects were ruled out in plasma, feces, cecum, liver and fat tissues where most abundant SCFAs were detected and accurately quantified. Finally, applicability of the method was assessed using samples derived from conventionally raised versus germ-free mice or mice treated with antibiotics. Altogether, a reliable, fast, derivatization-free GC-MS method for the quantification of SCFAs in different biological matrices was developed allowing for the study of the (patho)physiological role of SCFAs in metabolic health.

Keywords: GC-MS; SCFA; feces; fermentation; gut bacteria.