Comprehensive Isotopic Targeted Mass Spectrometry: Reliable Metabolic Flux Analysis with Broad Coverage

Xiaojian Shi, Bowei Xi, Paniz Jasbi, Cassidy Turner, Yan Jin, Haiwei Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Metabolic flux analysis (MFA) is highly relevant to understanding metabolic mechanisms of various biological processes. While the pace of methodology development in MFA has been rapid, a major challenge the field continues to witness is limited metabolite coverage, often restricted to a small to moderate number of well-known compounds. In addition, isotopic peaks from an enriched metabolite tend to have low abundances, which makes liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) highly useful in MFA due to its high sensitivity and specificity. Previously we have built large-scale LC-MS/MS approaches that can be routinely used for measurement of up to ∼1,900 metabolite/feature levels [ Gu et al. Anal. Chem. 2015, 87, 12355-12362. Shi et al. Anal. Chem. 2019, 91, 13737-13745.]. In this study, we aim to expand our previous studies focused on metabolite level measurements to flux analysis and establish a novel comprehensive isotopic targeted mass spectrometry (CIT-MS) method for reliable MFA analysis with broad coverage. As a proof-of-principle, we have applied CIT-MS to compare the steady-state enrichment of metabolites between Myc(oncogene)-On and Myc-Off Tet21N human neuroblastoma cells cultured with U-13C6-glucose medium. CIT-MS is operationalized using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode and is able to perform MFA of 310 identified metabolites (142 reliably detected, 46 kinetically profiled) selected from >35 metabolic pathways of strong biological significance. Further, we developed a novel concept of relative flux, which eliminates the requirement of absolute quantitation in traditional MFA and thus enables comparative MFA under the pseudosteady state. As a result, CIT-MS was shown to possess the advantages of broad coverage, easy implementation, fast throughput, and more importantly, high fidelity and accuracy in MFA. In principle, CIT-MS can be easily adapted to track the flux of other labeled tracers (such as 15N-tracers) in any metabolite detectable by LC-MS/MS and in various biological models (such as mice). Therefore, CIT-MS has great potential to bring new insights to both basic and clinical metabolism research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11728-11738
Number of pages11
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Comprehensive Isotopic Targeted Mass Spectrometry: Reliable Metabolic Flux Analysis with Broad Coverage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this