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Keywords:

  • mass spectrometry;
  • metabolomics;
  • gene function;
  • mammalian;
  • plant;
  • microbe

Abstract

Currently, mass spectrometry-based metabolomics studies extend beyond conventional chemical categorization and metabolic phenotype analysis to understanding gene function in various biological contexts (e.g., mammalian, plant, and microbial). These novel utilities have led to many innovative discoveries in the following areas: disease pathogenesis, therapeutic pathway or target identification, the biochemistry of animal and plant physiological and pathological activities in response to diverse stimuli, and molecular signatures of host–pathogen interactions during microbial infection. In this review, we critically evaluate the representative applications of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to better understand gene function in diverse biological contexts, with special emphasis on working principles, study protocols, and possible future development of this technique. Collectively, this review raises awareness within the biomedical community of the scientific value and applicability of mass spectrometry-based metabolomics strategies to better understand gene function, thus advancing this application's utility in a broad range of biological fields. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Mass Spec Rev 32:118–128, 2013