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Untargeted Metabolite Profiling of Abalone Using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry


Abalone meat is a delicacy worldwide, fetching high prices and a valuable source of income for the many countries farming and exporting this commodity. The quality of abalone is based on its unique sensory properties and an analytical metabolomics method for determining the compounds related to this would serve as a valuable tool for ensuring quality and consumer satisfaction. Metabolomics is a promising “omics” tool which can be applied towards this goal; however, widely applicable parameters for the evaluation of an untargeted gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) metabolomic approach is still lacking. GC-MS is a popular and suitable metabolomics method due to its high separation power, reproducible retention times, and selective mass detection. The aim of this study was to establish a reliable untargeted GC-MS method for analyzing firstly a standard compound mixture consisting of 10 compounds representing various compound classes and secondly applying the method in an untargeted manner to abalone muscle samples. Using a standard compound mixture with a concentration range of 1 to 100 μg/mL, the limit of detection (LOD) ranged between 0.01 and 3.30 μg/mL, the limit of quantification (LOQ) resulted in values between 0.02 and 9.49 μg/mL, the accuracy determined was <1.5 μg/mL, and the precision displayed a coefficient of variance (CV) <25 %. When evaluating the method in terms of biological samples harvested, the repeatability and intermediate precision showed CV values <50 % for most compounds measured, allowing application of this method for metabolite profiling of abalone to answer important biological questions.

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We are grateful for the donation of samples made by HIK Abalone Farm (Pty) Ltd., Hermanus, South Africa. We acknowledge the North-West University for financial support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


All funds were provided by the North-West University.

Conflict of Interest

Leonie Venter, Peet Jansen van Rensburg, Du Toit Loots, Andre Vosloo and Jeremie Zander Lindeque declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals were followed.

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Correspondence to Leonie Venter.

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Venter, L., van Rensburg, P.J., Loots, D.T. et al. Untargeted Metabolite Profiling of Abalone Using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry. Food Anal. Methods 9, 1254–1261 (2016).

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  • Abalone
  • Metabolomics
  • GC-MS
  • Untargeted metabolite profiling