The field of metabolomics continues to witness rapid growth driven by fundamental studies, methods development, and applications in a number of disciplines that include biomedical science, plant and nutrition sciences, drug development, energy and environmental sciences, toxicology, etc. NMR spectroscopy is one of the two most widely used analytical platforms in the metabolomics field, along with mass spectrometry (MS). NMR’s excellent reproducibility and quantitative accuracy, its ability to identify structures of unknown metabolites, its capacity to generate metabolite profiles using intact bio-specimens with no need for separation, and its capabilities for tracing metabolic pathways using isotope labeled substrates offer unique strengths for metabolomics applications. However, NMR’s limited sensitivity and resolution continue to pose a major challenge and have restricted both the number and the quantitative accuracy of metabolites analyzed by NMR. Further, the analysis of highly complex biological samples has increased the demand for new methods with improved detection, better unknown identification, and more accurate quantitation of larger numbers of metabolites. Recent efforts have contributed significant improvements in these areas, and have thereby enhanced the pool of routinely quantifiable metabolites. Additionally, efforts focused on combining NMR and MS promise opportunities to exploit the combined strength of the two analytical platforms for direct comparison of the metabolite data, unknown identification and reliable biomarker discovery that continue to challenge the metabolomics field. This article presents our perspectives on the emerging trends in NMR-based metabolomics and NMR’s continuing role in the field with an emphasis on recent and ongoing research from our laboratory.
- Nagana Gowda GA, Raftery D. Can NMR solve some significant challenges in metabolomics? J Magn Reson. 2015 Nov;260:144-60. Review. PMID: 26476597; PMCID: PMC4646661.
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- Research Center: University of Washington