Combining Feature-Based Molecular Networking and Contextual Mass Spectral Libraries to Decipher Nutrimetabolomics Profiles

Renai, Lapo; Ulaszewska, Marynka; Mattivi, Fulvio; Bartoletti, Riccardo; Bubba, Massimo Del; Hooft, Justin J.J. van der


Untargeted metabolomics approaches deal with complex data hindering structural information for the comprehensive analysis of unknown metabolite features. We investigated the metabolite discovery capacity and the possible extension of the annotation coverage of the Feature-Based Molecular Networking (FBMN) approach by adding two novel nutritionally-relevant (contextual) mass spectral libraries to the existing public ones, as compared to widely-used open-source annotation protocols. Two contextual mass spectral libraries in positive and negative ionization mode of ~300 reference molecules relevant for plant-based nutrikinetic studies were created and made publicly available through the GNPS platform. The postprandial urinary metabolome analysis within the intervention of Vaccinium supplements was selected as a case study. Following the FBMN approach in combination with the added contextual mass spectral libraries, 67 berry-related and human endogenous metabolites were annotated, achieving a structural annotation coverage comparable to or higher than existing non-commercial annotation workflows. To further exploit the quantitative data obtained within the FBMN environment, the postprandial behavior of the annotated metabolites was analyzed with Pearson product-moment correlation. This simple chemometric tool linked several molecular families with phase II and phase I metabolism. The proposed approach is a powerful strategy to employ in longitudinal studies since it reduces the unknown chemical space by boosting the annotation power to characterize biochemically relevant metabolites in human biofluids.