The extensive range of chemical structures, wide range of abundances, and chemical instability of metabolites present in the metabolome pose major analytical challenges that are difficult to address with existing technologies. To address these issues, one approach is to target a subset of metabolites that share a functional group, such as ketones and aldehydes, using chemoselective tagging. Here we report a greatly improved chemoselective method for the quantitative analysis of hydrophilic and hydrophobic carbonyl-containing metabolites directly in biological samples. This method is based on direct tissue or cells extraction with simultaneous derivatization of stable and labile carbonylated metabolites using N-[2-(aminooxy)ethyl]-N,N-dimethyl-1-dodecylammonium (QDA) and 13CD3 labeled QDA. We combined innovations of direct quenching of biological sample with frozen derivatization conditions under the catalyst N,N-dimethyl-p-phenylenediamine, which facilitated the formation of oxime stable-isotope ion pairs differing by m/z 4.02188 while minimizing metabolite degradation. The resulting oximes were extracted by HyperSep C8 tips to remove interfering compounds, and the products were detected using nano-electrospray ionization interfaced with a Thermo Fusion mass spectrometer. The quaternary ammonium tagging greatly increased electrospray MS detection sensitivity and the signature ions pairs enabled simple identification of carbonyl compounds. The improved method showed the lower limits of quantification for carbonyl standards to be in the range of 0.20-2 nM, with linearity of R2 > 0.99 over 4 orders of magnitude. We have applied the method to assign 66 carbonyls in mouse tumor tissues, many of which could not be assigned solely by accurate mass and tandem MS. Fourteen of the metabolites were quantified using authentic standards. We also demonstrated the suitability of this method for determining 13C labeled isotopologues of carbonyl metabolites in 13C6-glucose-based stable isotope-resolved metabolomic (SIRM) studies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge financial support from NIH 1R01CA118434-01A2 (TWMF), 3R01CA118434-02S1 (TWMF), 1P01CA163223-01A1 (to ANL and TWMF), 1U24DK097215-01A1 (to RMH, TWMF, and ANL), and P30CA177558 (to B. M. Evers). R. C. Sun was supported by a T32 5T32ES007266-25 (M. Vore) and R. C. Bruntz by a T32 CA165990 (V. Ragnekar).