Non-targeted UHPLC-MS metabolomic data processing methods: A comparative investigation of normalisation, missing value imputation, transformation and scaling

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Introduction: The generic metabolomics data processing workflow is constructed with a serial set of processes including peak picking, quality assurance, normalisation, missing value imputation, transformation and scaling. The combination of these processes should present the experimental data in an appropriate structure so to identify the biological changes in a valid and robust manner.
Objectives: Currently, different researchers apply different data processing methods and no assessment of the permutations applied to UHPLC-MS datasets has been published. Here we wish to define the most appropriate data processing workflow.
Methods: We assess the influence of normalisation, missing value imputation, transformation and scaling methods on univariate and multivariate analysis of UHPLC-MS datasets acquired for different mammalian samples.
Results: Our studies have shown that once data are filtered, missing values are not correlated with m/z, retention time or response. Following an exhaustive evaluation, we recommend PQN normalisation with no missing value imputation and no transformation or scaling for univariate analysis. For PCA we recommend applying PQN normalisation with Random Forest missing value imputation, glog transformation and no scaling method. For PLS-DA we recommend PQN normalisation, KNN as the missing value imputation method, generalised logarithm transformation and no scaling. These recommendations are based on searching for the biologically important metabolite features independent of their measured abundance.
Conclusion: The appropriate choice of normalisation, missing value imputation, transformation and scaling methods differs depending on the data analysis method and the choice of methods is essential to maximise the biological derivations from UHPLC-MS datasets.


Original languageEnglish
Issue number93
Early online date15 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016