Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 24, pp 4421–4441 | Cite as

Experimental design and reporting standards for metabolomics studies of mammalian cell lines

  • Sarah Hayton
  • Garth L. MakerEmail author
  • Ian Mullaney
  • Robert D. Trengove


Metabolomics is an analytical technique that investigates the small biochemical molecules present within a biological sample isolated from a plant, animal, or cultured cells. It can be an extremely powerful tool in elucidating the specific metabolic changes within a biological system in response to an environmental challenge such as disease, infection, drugs, or toxins. A historically difficult step in the metabolomics pipeline is in data interpretation to a meaningful biological context, for such high-variability biological samples and in untargeted metabolomics studies that are hypothesis-generating by design. One way to achieve stronger biological context of metabolomic data is via the use of cultured cell models, particularly for mammalian biological systems. The benefits of in vitro metabolomics include a much greater control of external variables and no ethical concerns. The current concerns are with inconsistencies in experimental procedures and level of reporting standards between different studies. This review discusses some of these discrepancies between recent studies, such as metabolite extraction and data normalisation. The aim of this review is to highlight the importance of a standardised experimental approach to any cultured cell metabolomics study and suggests an example procedure fully inclusive of information that should be disclosed in regard to the cell type/s used and their culture conditions. Metabolomics of cultured cells has the potential to uncover previously unknown information about cell biology, functions and response mechanisms, and so the accurate biological interpretation of the data produced and its ability to be compared to other studies should be considered vitally important.


Metabolomics Cell culture In vitro Methods Standardisation Experimental design 



This review was supported in part by the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Hayton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Garth L. Maker
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ian Mullaney
    • 2
  • Robert D. Trengove
    • 1
  1. 1.Separation Sciences and Metabolomics LaboratoriesMurdoch UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.School of Veterinary and Life SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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