Functional Metabolomics Decipher Biochemical Functions And Associated Mechanisms Underlie Small-Molecule Metabolism

Longlong Hu, Jingjing Liu, Wenhua Zhang, Tianyu Wang, Ning Zhang, Yie Hou Lee, Haitao LYU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Metabolism is the collection of biochemical reactions enabled by chemically diverse metabolites, which facilitate different physiological processes to exchange substances and synthesize energy in diverse living organisms. Metabolomics has emerged as a cutting-edge method to qualify and quantify the metabolites in different biological matrixes, and it has the extraordinary capacity to interrogate the biological significance that underlies metabolic modification and modulation. Liquid chromatography combined with mass spectrometry (LC/MS), as a robust platform for metabolomics analysis, has increased in popularity over the past 10 years due to its excellent sensitivity, throughput, and versatility. However, metabolomics investigation currently provides us with only phenotype data without revealing the biochemical functions and associated mechanisms. This limitation indeed weakens the core value of metabolomics data in a broad spectrum of the life sciences. In recent years, the scientific community has actively explored the functional features of metabolomics and translated this cutting-edge approach to be used to solve key multifaceted questions, such as disease pathogenesis, the therapeutic discovery of drugs, nutritional issues, agricultural problems, environmental toxicology, and microbial evolution. Here, we are the first to briefly review the history and applicable progression of LC/MS-based metabolomics, with an emphasis on the applications of metabolic phenotyping. Furthermore, we specifically highlight the next era of LC/MS-based metabolomics to target functional metabolomes, through which we can answer phenotype-related questions to elucidate biochemical functions and associated mechanisms implicated in dysregulated metabolism. Finally, we propose many strategies to enhance the research capacity of functional metabolomics by enabling the combination of contemporary omics technologies and cutting-edge biochemical techniques. The main purpose of this review is to improve the understanding of LC/MS-based metabolomics, extending beyond the conventional metabolic phenotype toward biochemical functions and associated mechanisms, to enhance research capability and to enlarge the applicable scope of functional metabolomics in small-molecule metabolism in different living organisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-433
Number of pages17
JournalMass Spectrometry Reviews
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


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