Metabolomics is a powerful and essential technology for profiling metabolic phenotypes and exploring metabolic reprogramming, which enables the identification of biomarkers and provides mechanistic insights into physiology and disease. However, its applications are still limited by the technical challenges particularly in its detection sensitivity for the analysis of biological samples with limited amount, necessitating the development of highly sensitive approaches. Here, we developed a highly sensitive liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry method based on a 3-nitrophenylhydrazine (3-NPH) derivatization strategy that simultaneously targets carbonyl, carboxyl, and phosphoryl groups for targeted metabolomic analysis (HSDccp-TM) in biological samples. By testing 130 endogenous metabolites including organic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, nucleotides, carnitines, and vitamins, we showed that the derivatization strategy resulted in significantly improved detection sensitivity and chromatographic separation capability. Metabolic profiling of merely 60 oocytes and 5000 hematopoietic stem cells primarily isolated from mice demonstrated that this method enabled routine metabolomic analysis in trace amounts of biospecimens. Moreover, the derivatization strategy bypassed the tediousness of inferring the MS fragmentation patterns and simplified the complexity of monitoring ion pairs of metabolites, which greatly facilitated the metabolic flux analysis (MFA) for glycolysis, the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) in cell cultures. In summary, the novel 3-NPH derivatization-based method with high sensitivity, good chromatographic separation, and broad coverage showed great potential in promoting metabolomics and MFA, especially in trace amounts of biospecimens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry