Capillary Electrophoresis-Mass Spectrometry for Metabolic Profiling of Biomass-Limited Samples

  • Wei Zhang
  • Thomas Hankemeier
  • Rawi RamautarEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1972)


Capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (CE-MS) is a strong separation technique for the highly efficient and selective analysis of polar and charged metabolites in biological samples. The CE approach is especially suited for the analysis of limited sample amounts due to its nanoliter injections from only a few microliters of material in the sample injection vial. In this protocol, a CE-MS strategy is outlined for the profiling of cationic metabolites in biomass-limited samples using a small amount of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) cells as a model system. By employing a sheathless interfacing design for coupling CE to MS, it is shown that information-rich profiles for cationic metabolites can be obtained when working with a starting amount of 10,000 HepG2 cells and even lower. Overall, the proposed CE-MS-based analytical workflow may be considered a useful tool for biomass-limited metabolomics studies.

Key words

Capillary electrophoresis Mass spectrometry Sheathless interface Metabolic profiling Biomass-limited samples Cationic metabolites 



Wei Zhang would like to acknowledge the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC, No. 201507060011). Dr. Rawi Ramautar would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Veni and Vidi grant scheme of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO Veni 722.013.008 and Vidi 723.016.003). This work was also supported by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/CAM-PaC) under grant agreement no 602783.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biomedical Microscale Analytics, Leiden Academic Center for Drug ResearchLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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