A comparison of high-throughput plasma NMR protocols for comparative untargeted metabolomics

Nikolaos G. Bliziotis*, Udo F.H. Engelke, Ruud L.E.G. Aspers, Jasper Engel, Jaap Deinum, Henri J.L.M. Timmers, Ron A. Wevers, Leo A.J. Kluijtmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: When analyzing the human plasma metabolome with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, the Carr–Purcell–Meiboom–Gill (CPMG) experiment is commonly employed for large studies. However, this process can lead to compromised statistical analyses due to residual macromolecule signals. In addition, the utilization of Trimethylsilylpropanoic acid (TSP) as an internal standard often leads to quantification issues, and binning, as a spectral summarization step, can result in features not clearly assignable to metabolites. Objectives: Our aim was to establish a new complete protocol for large plasma cohorts collected with the purpose of describing the comparative metabolic profile of groups of samples. Methods: We compared the conventional CPMG approach to a novel procedure that involves diffusion NMR, using the Longitudinal Eddy-Current Delay (LED) experiment, maleic acid (MA) as the quantification reference and peak picking for spectral reduction. This comparison was carried out using the ultrafiltration method as a gold standard in a simple sample classification experiment, with Partial Least Squares–Discriminant Analysis (PLS-DA) and the resulting metabolic signatures for multivariate data analysis. In addition, the quantification capabilities of the method were evaluated. Results: We found that the LED method applied was able to detect more metabolites than CPMG and suppress macromolecule signals more efficiently. The complete protocol was able to yield PLS-DA models with enhanced classification accuracy as well as a more reliable set of important features than the conventional CPMG approach. Assessment of the quantitative capabilities of the method resulted in good linearity, recovery and agreement with an established amino acid assay for the majority of the metabolites tested. Regarding repeatability, ~ 85% of all peaks had an adequately low coefficient of variation (< 30%) in replicate samples. Conclusion: Overall, our comparison yielded a high-throughput untargeted plasma NMR protocol for optimized data acquisition and processing that is expected to be a valuable contribution in the field of metabolic biomarker discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Classification
  • High-throughput
  • Large scale
  • LED
  • Metabolomics
  • NMR


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