Mass spectrometry approaches to metabolic profiling of microbial communities within the human gastrointestinal tract

Publication date: 1 October 2018

Source: Methods, Volume 149

Author(s): Simon J.S. Cameron, Zoltán Takáts


The interaction between microbial communities and their environment, such as the human gastrointestinal tract, has been an area of microbiology rapidly advanced, by developments in sequencing technology. However, these techniques are largely limited to the detection of the taxonomic composition of a microbial community and/or its genetic functional capacity. Here, we discuss a range of mass spectrometry-based approaches which researchers can employ to explore the host-microbiome interactions at the metabolic level. Traditional approaches to mass spectrometry are detailed, alongside new developments in the field, namely ambient ionisation mass spectrometry and imaging mass spectrometry, which we believe will prove to be important to future work in this field. We further discuss considerations for experimental workflows, data analysis options and propose a methodology for the establishment of causal relationships between functional host-microbiome interactions with regards to health and disease in the human gastrointestinal tract.

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