Assigning precursor–product ion relationships in indiscriminant MS/MS data from non-targeted metabolite profiling studies
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- Broeckling, C.D., Heuberger, A.L., Prince, J.A. et al. Metabolomics (2013) 9: 33. doi:10.1007/s11306-012-0426-4
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Tandem mass spectrometry using precursor ion selection (MS/MS) is an invaluable tool for structural elucidation of small molecules. In non-targeted metabolite profiling studies, instrument duty cycle limitations and experimental costs have driven efforts towards alternate approaches. Recently, researchers have begun to explore methods for collecting indiscriminant MS/MS (idMS/MS) data in which the fragmentation process does not involve precursor ion isolation. While this approach has many advantages, importantly speed, sensitivity and coverage, confident assignment of precursor–product ion relationships is challenging, which has inhibited broad adoption of the technique. Here, we present an approach that uses open source software to improve the assignment of precursor–product relationships in idMS/MS data by appending a dataset-wide correlational analysis to existing tools. The utility of the approach was demonstrated using a dataset of standard compounds spiked into a malt-barley background, as well as unspiked human serum. The workflow was able to recreate idMS/MS spectra which are highly similar to standard MS/MS spectra of authentic standards, even in the presence of a complex matrix background. The application of this approach has the potential to generate high quality idMS/MS spectra for each detectable molecular feature, which will streamline the identification process for non-targeted metabolite profiling studies.