Correction of 13C mass isotopomer distributions for natural stable isotope abundance

J Mass Spectrom. 1996 Mar;31(3):255-62. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9888(199603)31:3<255::AID-JMS290>3.0.CO;2-3.


Metabolism of singly or multiply 13C-labeled substrates leads to the production of molecules that contain 13C atoms at various positions. Molecules differing only in the number of isotopic atoms incorporated are referred to as mass isotopomers. The distribution of mass isotopomers of many molecules can be measured by gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry after chemical derivatization. Quantification of metabolite mass isotopomer abundance resulting from biological processes necessitates correction of the measured mass isotopomer distribution of the derivatized metabolite for contributions due to naturally occurring isotopes of its elements. This correction must take into account differences in the relative natural abundance distribution of each mass isotopomer (skewing). An IBM-compatible computer program was developed which (i) calculates the natural abundance mass isotopomer distribution of unlabeled and labeled standards given the molecular formula of the derivatized molecule or fragment ion, and (ii) calculates the natural abundance mass isotopomer distribution of the singly and multiply labeled molecule or fragment via non-linear fitting to the measured mass isotopomer distribution of the unlabeled molecule or fragment. The output of this program is used to correct measured mass isotopomer distributions for contributions from natural isotope abundances and to verify measured values for theoretical consistency. Differences between predicted and measured unlabeled and 13C-labeled isotopomer distributions for hydroxamate di-t-butyl-dimethylsilyl (di-TBDMS) derivatized pyruvate were measured. The program was applied to the mass isotopomer distribution of glucose labeled from [U-13C3]glycerol and of fatty acids labeled from [U-13C6]glucose and either [2-13C2] acetate or [U-13C2]acetate. In some of these cases, the measured mass isotopomer distributions corrected by the program were different from those corrected by the classical technique. Implications of these differences including those on the calculation of glucose production due to gluconeogenesis in isolated perfused rat liver are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gluconeogenesis / physiology
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycerol / chemistry
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Software


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fatty Acids
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Lipids
  • Glucose
  • Glycerol