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An innovative approach to grape metabolomics: stilbene profiling by suspect screening analysis


Suspect screening analysis is a targeted metabolomics approach in which identification of compounds relies on specific available information such as their molecular formula and isotopic pattern. This method was applied to the study of grape metabolomics with an UPLC/MS high-resolution Q-TOF mass spectrometer (nominal resolution 40,000) coupled with a Jet Stream ionization source. The present paper describes the detailed qualitative and quantitative study of grape stilbenes, the principal polyphenols associated with the beneficial effects of drinking wine. For identification of compounds, a new database was expressly constructed from the molecular information of potential metabolites of grape and wine from the literature and other electronic databases. Currently, GrapeMetabolomics contains about a thousand putative grape compounds. If untargeted analysis of a sample provides identification of a new compound with a sufficiently confident score, it is added to the database. Thus, by increasing the number of samples studied, GrapeMetabolomics can be expanded. This method is effective for identification of the molecular formulae of several hundred metabolites in two runs (positive and negative ionization) with minimal sample preparation, and can also be used to analyse some single classes of compounds involved in cell and tissue metabolism. With this approach, a total of 18 stilbene derivatives was identified in two grape samples (Raboso Piave and Primitivo) on the basis of accurate mass measurements and isotopic patterns, and identification was confirmed by MS/MS analysis. The approach can also potentially be applied to the metabolomics of other plant varieties.

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VIGNETO Project, financial support from MiPAAF, project duration 2011–2013.

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Correspondence to Riccardo Flamini.

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Flamini, R., De Rosso, M., De Marchi, F. et al. An innovative approach to grape metabolomics: stilbene profiling by suspect screening analysis. Metabolomics 9, 1243–1253 (2013).

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  • Stilbenes
  • Grape
  • UPLC
  • Time of flight mass spectrometry
  • Metabolomics
  • Suspect screening analysis