The Metabolomics Facility at MD Anderson provides state-of-the-art mass spectrometry analysis of metabolites for basic and clinical cancer research. We offer our services to both MD Anderson and external investigators.
What is Metabolomics?
- Metabolomics is the study of small molecules (defined generally by molecular weight less than 1500 Daltons) in biological samples, including both relative and absolute quantitation.
- “Targeted metabolomics” refers to the analysis of a defined subset of molecules, whereas “non-targeted metabolomics” refers to the analysis of all detectable small molecules.
- In addition to measuring total metabolite levels, a second workflow involves isotope tracer analysis (in either targeted or non-targeted mode), in which stable isotope-labeled metabolites can be used to track the flow of atoms in metabolism.
- The most common biological matrices in which we measure metabolites are: cells, media, plasma, whole blood, red blood cells, urine, and tissues. But even more complex matrices (e.g., bone) can be analyzed.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you know the metabolites that you want/need to measure, a targeted experiment is the ideal choice, because it can provide absolute quantitation in a robust manner.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to measure, a non-targeted experiment can provide valuable insight, and any interesting results can be validated by a follow-up targeted experiment.
- With non-targeted experiments, quantitation is usually relative and not absolute. Practically speaking, with some thought and discussion, most users (even those who think they need to do a non-targeted experiment) can usually come up with a handful of metabolites or pathways that they expect to see altered in their experiment.
Metabolite concentrations alone often do not tell the whole story; two different contexts (e.g., non-treated vs. drug-treated) may yield the same total concentration of a particular metabolite, but underlying biochemical reactions may contribute differentially to the metabolite’s measured levels in the two contexts. That phenomenon can be discerned by stable isotope tracer analysis. For example, cells can be treated with 13C-labeled metabolite, and the transfer of that 13C label from the initial metabolite into downstream metabolites can be tracked in a targeted or non-targeted manner. Additional isotope labels that are commonly used include 15N and 18O.
- NOTE: stable isotopes should not be confused with radioisotopes; stable isotopes are not radioactive.
If your experiment involves a cell line, please submit the results of a recent mycoplasma test confirming that the line is mycoplasma-negative. Preferably have the testing done with the MD Anderson Characterized Cell Line Core (CCLC).
Please contact Phil Lorenzi (PLLorenzi@mdanderson.org) to schedule your experiment. Our staff are highly experienced in metabolomic sample preparation; onsite experiments ensure the highest-quality results.
It is common to drop cells off on a Friday, then perform the experiment the following week. When dropping off your cells, please:
1. Bring the cells in a vent-capped flask to ensure sterility while transporting the cells. (We can provide this to you if your lab doesn’t use flasks). It is generally advisable to feed cells with fresh medium or split them after transporting to our facility.
2. Bring enough media, PBS, trypsin, drug, and/or any other treatments for the experiment and passaging of the cells prior to the experiment.
If you need to ship cells, drugs, and/or other materials to us, the shipping address is:
7435 Fannin Street
Houston, TX 77054
This facility is funded by the NIH/NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) #P30CA016672, the NIH High-End Instrumentation program grant #1S10OD012304-01, and CPRIT Core Facility Grant #RP130397. Please acknowledge the Metabolomics Facility and these grants in your citations.