Document Type


Journal Title

PLoS One

Publication Date





By standard convention, in order to increase the efficacy of metabolite detection from cell culture lysates, metabolite extracts from a large quantity of cells are utilized for multiple reaction monitoring-based metabolomic studies. Metabolomics from a small number of cell extracts offers a potential economical alternative to increased cell numbers, in turn increasing the utility of cell culture-based metabolomics. However, the effect of reduced cell numbers on targeted metabolomic profiling is relatively unstudied. Considering the limited knowledge available of the feasibility and accuracy of microscale cell culture metabolomics, the present study analyzes differences in metabolomic profiles of different cell numbers of three pancreatic cancer cell lines. Specifically, it examines the effects of reduced cell numbers on metabolite profiles by obtaining extracts either directly from microscale culture plates or through serial dilution of increased numbers of cellular metabolite extracts. Our results indicate reduced cell numbers only modestly affect the number of metabolites detected (93% of metabolites detected in cell numbers as low as 104 cells and 97% for 105 cells), independent of the method used to obtain the cells. However, metabolite peak intensities were differentially affected by the reduced cell numbers, with some peak intensities inversely proportional to the cell numbers. To help eliminate such potential inverse relationships, peak intensities for increased cell numbers were excluded from the comparative analysis. Overall, metabolite profiles from microscale culture plates were observed to differ from the serial dilution samples, which may be attributable to the medium-to-cell-number ratios. Finally, findings identify perturbations in metabolomic profiling for cellular extracts from reduced cell numbers, which offer future applications in microscale metabolomic evaluations.

MeSH Headings

Cell Count, Cell Line, Tumor, Chromatography, Liquid, Humans, Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions, Limit of Detection, Metabolome, Metabolomics, Pancreas, Tandem Mass Spectrometry



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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