Besides many other applications, isotopic labeling is commonly used to decipher the metabolism of living biological systems. By giving a stable isotopically labeled compound as a substrate, the biological system will use this labeled nutrient as it would with a regular substrate and incorporate stable heavy atoms into new metabolites. Utilizing mass spectrometry, by comparing heavy atom enriched isotopic profiles and naturally occurring ones, it is possible to identify these metabolites and deduce valuable information about metabolism and biochemical pathways. The coupling of this approach with mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) allows one then to obtain 2D maps of metabolisms used by living specimens. As metabolic networks are convoluted, a global overview of the isotopically labeled data set to detect unexpected metabolites is crucial. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of MSI spectra, such untargeted processing approaches are difficult to decipher. In this technical note, we demonstrate the potential of a variation around the Kendrick analysis concept to detect the incorporation of stable heavy atoms into metabolites. The Kendrick analysis uses as a base unit the difference between the mass of the most abundant isotope and the mass of the corresponding stable isotopic tracer (namely, 12C and 13C). The resulting Kendrick plot offers an alternative method to process the MSI data set with a new perspective allowing for the rapid detection of the 13C-enriched metabolites and separating unrelated compounds. This processing method of MS data could therefore be a useful tool to decipher isotopic labeling and study metabolic networks, especially as it does not require advanced computational capabilities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry