Mass spectrometry-based metabolomics: Targeting the crosstalk between gut microbiota and brain in neurodegenerative disorders

Hemi Luan, Xian Wang, Zongwei CAI*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

127 Citations (Scopus)


Metabolomics seeks to take a “snapshot” in a time of the levels, activities, regulation and interactions of all small molecule metabolites in response to a biological system with genetic or environmental changes. The emerging development in mass spectrometry technologies has shown promise in the discovery and quantitation of neuroactive small molecule metabolites associated with gut microbiota and brain. Significant progress has been made recently in the characterization of intermediate role of small molecule metabolites linked to neural development and neurodegenerative disorder, showing its potential in understanding the crosstalk between gut microbiota and the host brain. More evidence reveals that small molecule metabolites may play a critical role in mediating microbial effects on neurotransmission and disease development. Mass spectrometry-based metabolomics is uniquely suitable for obtaining the metabolic signals in bidirectional communication between gut microbiota and brain. In this review, we summarized major mass spectrometry technologies including liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and imaging mass spectrometry for metabolomics studies of neurodegenerative disorders. We also reviewed the recent advances in the identification of new metabolites by mass spectrometry and metabolic pathways involved in the connection of intestinal microbiota and brain. These metabolic pathways allowed the microbiota to impact the regular function of the brain, which can in turn affect the composition of microbiota via the neurotransmitter substances. The dysfunctional interaction of this crosstalk connects neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. The mass spectrometry-based metabolomics analysis provides information for targeting dysfunctional pathways of small molecule metabolites in the development of the neurodegenerative diseases, which may be valuable for the investigation of underlying mechanism of therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-33
Number of pages12
JournalMass Spectrometry Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Spectroscopy

User-Defined Keywords

  • brain
  • gut microbiota
  • Metabolomics
  • neurodegenerative disorders
  • small molecule metabolites


Dive into the research topics of 'Mass spectrometry-based metabolomics: Targeting the crosstalk between gut microbiota and brain in neurodegenerative disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this