Metabolomics is defined as the non-targeted detection and quantification of small molecules (metabolites) in biological materials (e.g. plasma/urine/tissue/plant/ microbial extracts). The resulting metabolite profiles reflect the actual cellular condition and provide useful indicators (biomarkers) of abnormalities/health, consequences of genetic engineering and adaptations to test compounds (e.g. drugs) or environmental factors, as well as a means of discovering new biomolecules (bioprospecting) and monitoring food quality.
Metabolomics requires reliable sampling and precise capture of thousands of metabolites from the biological sample of interest. The utilisation of a variety of complementary analytical platforms is crucial for identifying and quantifying the large numbers of chemically diverse primary and secondary metabolites typically found in biological samples.
Finally, it requires appropriate informatics for data extraction, mining and interpretation of the obtained information. The most commonly used platforms for the detection and measurement of metabolites involves the use of gas chromatography (GC), liquid chromatography (LC), or capillary electrophoresis (CE) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS).
Compounds may also be measured directly without chromatographic separation by, for example, fourier- transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR).