Advancements in pulsed stable isotope-resolved metabolomics


  • M. Forbes
  • S. Geisberger
  • M. Pietzke
  • G. Mastrobuoni
  • S. Kempa


  • Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology


  • Handb Exp Pharmacol 277: 165-180


  • The understanding of biochemical processes of metabolism is gained through the measurement of the concentration of intermediates and the rate of metabolite conversion. However, the measurement of metabolite concentrations does not give a full representation of this dynamic system. To understand the kinetics of metabolism, the system must be described and quantified in terms of metabolite flow as a function of time. In order to measure the metabolite flow, or more precisely the metabolic flux through a biological system, substrates of the cell are labelled with stable isotopes. The usage of these substrates by the cell leads to the incorporation of the isotopes into downstream intermediates.The most important metabolic pathways are encompassed in the central carbon metabolism (CCM). According to the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG), the central carbon metabolism "is the most basic aspect of life". It includes all metabolites and enzymatic reactions within: glycolysis and gluconeogenesis, pentose phosphate pathway (PPP), tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), amino acids and nucleotide metabolic pathways. Some molecules are at the crossroad of metabolic pathways, interconnecting diverse metabolic and therefore functional outcomes. Labelling these nodal metabolites and analysing their isotopic composition allows the precise determination of the metabolic flow within the biochemical networks that they are in.Application of stable isotope labelled substrates allows the measurement of metabolic flux through a biochemical pathway. The rapid turnover of metabolites in pathways requires pulse-feeding cells with a labelled substrate. This method allows for the determination of different cell states. For example, the action of a drug from immediate impact until the compensatory response of the metabolic system (cell, organs, organisms). Pulsed labelling is an elegant way to analyse the action of small molecules and drugs and enables the analysis of regulatory metabolic processes in short time scales.