The potential of nanoflow liquid chromatography-nano electrospray ionisation-mass spectrometry for global profiling the faecal metabolome

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Faeces are comprised of a wide array of metabolites arising from the circulatory system as well as the human microbiome. A global metabolite analysis (metabolomics) of faecal extracts offers the potential to uncover new compounds which may be indicative of the onset of bowel diseases such as colorectal cancer (CRC). To date, faecal metabolomics is still in its infancy and the compounds of low abundance present in faecal extracts poorly characterised. In this study, extracts of faeces from healthy subjects were profiled using a sensitive nanoflow-nanospray LC-MS platform which resulted in highly repeatable peak retention times (<2% CV) and intensities (<15% CV). Analysis of the extracts revealed wide coverage of the faecal metabolome including detection of low abundant signalling compounds such as sex steroids and eicosanoids, alongside highly abundant pharmaceuticals and tetrapyrrole metabolites. A small pilot study investigating differences in metabolomics profiles of faecal samples obtained from 7 CRC, 25 adenomatous polyp and 26 healthy groups revealed that secondary bile acids, conjugated androgens, eicosanoids, phospholipids and an unidentified haem metabolite were potential classes of metabolites that discriminated between the CRC and control sample groups. However, much larger follow up studies are needed to confirm which components of the faecal metabolome are associated with actual CRC disease rather than dietary influences. This study reveals the potential of nanospray-nanoflow LC-MS profiling of faecal samples from large scale cohort studies for uncovering the role of the faecal metabolome in colorectal disease formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-136
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Early online date20 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2019


  • metabolomics
  • nanoLC
  • nanoESI
  • Colon cancer
  • LC-MS
  • Faeces

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