The Nanomaterial Metabolite Corona Determined Using a Quantitative Metabolomics Approach: A Pilot Study

Andrew J Chetwynd, Wei Zhang, James A Thorn, Iseult Lynch, Rawi Ramautar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Nanomaterials (NMs) are promptly coated with biomolecules in biological systems leading to the formation of the so-called corona. To date, research has predominantly focused on the protein corona and how it affects NM uptake, distribution, and bioactivity by conferring a biological identity to NMs enabling interactions with receptors to mediate cellular responses. Thus, protein corona studies are now integral to nanosafety assessment. However, a larger class of molecules, the metabolites, which are orders of magnitude smaller than proteins (<1000 Da) and regulate metabolic pathways, has been largely overlooked. This hampers the understanding of the bio-nano interface, development of computational predictions of corona formation, and investigations into uptake or toxicity at the cellular level, including identification of molecular initiating events triggering adverse outcome pathways. Here, a capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry based metabolomics approach reveals that pure polar ionogenic metabolite standards differentially adsorb to a range of 6 NMs (SiO2 , 3 TiO2 with different surface chemistries, and naïve and carboxylated polystyrene NMs). The metabolite corona composition is quantitatively compared using protein-free and complete plasma samples, revealing that proteins in samples significantly change the composition of the metabolite corona. This key finding provides the basis to include the metabolite corona in future nanosafety endeavors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2000295
Pages (from-to)e2000295
Issue number21
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Published by WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


  • capillary electrophoresis
  • mass spectrometry
  • nanomaterials
  • nanoparticles
  • small molecule corona

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science


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