As one of the key disciplines of systems biology, metabolomics and lipidomics investigate the composition (identification and quantification of metabolites) as well as the dynamics (metabolic rates and fluxes) of the metabolome in relation to genetic and environmental conditions or perturbations. In an analogy to the genome or proteome, the metabolome comprises all endogenous biochemicals apart from proteins and nucleic acids, i.e., the small molecular compounds linked to the central metabolism, nucleotides, lipids, aminoacids or oligosaccharides. Thus, metabolomics and lipidomic complement the functional genomics approach by a systematic analysis of the biochemical phenotype as it emerges from the genotype, a given environment and the molecular interactions of an organism. Because many emergent properties of the complex biomolecular interaction networks of organisms are traceable only at the metabolome level, metabolomics is neither a redundant, nor a confirmatory, rather an essential complement of systems oriented genome and proteome analysis.
However, due to analytical limitations, metabolomics analyses currently cannot cover the entire metabolome with one analytical approach. Therefore, metabolomics analyses are always focused on a part of a given metabolome, e.g., the small polar molecules or the lipids extracted from a biological sample. Such an inevitable focus is the reason for the rather independently evolving disciplines of “small polar molecules” metabolomics, lipidomics, glycomics and other metabolome related approaches.
Currently the FGCZ is supporting untargeted (profiling) and targeted (quantification) mass spectrometry based analysis of small polar molecules and lipids. The support includes all steps of the metabolomics workflow, comprising sampling, sample preparation, sample fractionation, mass spectrometry and data analysis. Other protocols, e.g., fluxomics, NMR based metabolomics or metabonomics are not offered.
Although similar in many analytical aspects, the analysis of exogenous metabolites (xenobiotics and their degradation products), the identification of new secondary metabolites or the chemotaxonomic profiling of organisms do not share the system scope with metabolomics; therefore they have to be considered as approaches in their own right. Nevertheless, the FGCZ will also provide analytical support in these fields if the available technology fits the needs of the project.