Unravelling the brain metabolome: A review of liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry strategies for extracellular brain metabolomics

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The analysis of the brain extracellular metabolome is of interest for numerous subdomains within neuroscience. Not only does it provide information about normal physiological functions, it is even more of interest for biomarker discovery and target discovery in disease. The extracellular analysis of the brain is particularly interesting as it provides information about the release of mediators in the brain extracellular fluid to look at cellular signaling and metabolic pathways through the release, diffusion and re-uptake of neurochemicals. In vivo samples are obtained through microdialysis, cerebral open-flow microperfusion or solid-phase microextraction. The analytes of potential interest are typically low in concentration and can have a wide range of physicochemical properties. Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry has proven its usefulness in brain metabolomics. It allows sensitive and specific analysis of low sample volumes, obtained through different approaches. Several strategies for the analysis of the extracellular fluid have been proposed. The most widely used approaches apply sample derivatization, specific stationary phases and/or hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography. Miniaturization of these methods allows an even higher sensitivity. The development of chiral metabolomics is indispensable, as it allows to compare the enantiomeric ratio of compounds and provides even more challenges. Some limitations continue to exist for the previously developed methods and the development of new, more sensitive methods remains needed. This review provides an overview of the methods developed for sampling and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of the extracellular metabolome.
Original languageEnglish
Article number464479
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Early online date31 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Liam Nestor is a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. This review is supported by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO: G0B0823N) and the strategic research program of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (SRP49).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Metabolomics
  • Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry
  • Extracellular fluid
  • Brain
  • Sample collection


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