Distinguishing between the metabolome and xenobiotic exposome in environmental field samples analysed by direct-infusion mass spectrometry based metabolomics and lipidomics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Anke Lange
  • Raghad Al-Salhi
  • Elizabeth M. Hill
  • Charles R. Tyler

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Sussex
  • University of Exeter
  • School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex


Environmental metabolomics is increasingly used to investigate organismal responses to complex chemical mixtures, including waste water effluent (WWE). In parallel, increasingly sensitive analytical methods are being used in metabolomics studies, particularly mass spectrometry. This introduces a considerable, yet overlooked, challenge that high analytical sensitivity will not only improve the detection of endogenous metabolites in biological specimens but also exogenous chemicals. If these often unknown xenobiotic features are not removed from the “biological” dataset, they will bias the interpretation and could lead to incorrect conclusions about the biotic response. Here we illustrate and validate a novel workflow classifying the origin of peaks detected in biological samples as: endogenous, xenobiotics, or metabolised xenobiotics. The workflow is demonstrated using direct infusion mass spectrometry-based metabolomic analysis of testes from roach exposed to different concentrations of a complex WWE. We show that xenobiotics and their metabolic products can be detected in roach testes (including triclosan, chloroxylenol and chlorophene), and that these compounds have a disproportionately high level of statistical significance within the total (bio)chemical changes induced by the WWE. Overall we have demonstrated that this workflow extracts more information from an environmental metabolomics study of complex mixture exposures than was possible previously.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1050-1058
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Endometabolome, Exposome, Lipidome, Rutilus rutilus, Xenometabolome