Liquid chromatography coupled to refractive index of mass spectrometric detection for metabolite profiling in lysate-based cell-free systems
Jaime Lorenzo N. Dinglasan, David T. Reeves, Robert L. Hettich, and Mitchel J. Doktycz
23 September 2021, JoVE; https://www.jove.com/t/62852/liquid-chromatography-coupled-to-refractive-index-or-mass
Engineering cellular metabolism for targeted biosynthesis can require extensive design-build-test-learn (DBTL) cycles as the engineer works around the cell’s survival requirements. Alternatively, carrying out DBTL cycles in cell-free environments can accelerate this process and alleviate concerns with host compatibility. A promising approach to cell-free metabolic engineering (CFME) leverages metabolically active crude cell extracts as platforms for biomanufacturing and for rapidly discovering and prototyping modified proteins and pathways. Realizing these capabilities and optimizing CFME performance requires methods to characterize the metabolome of lysate-based cell-free platforms. That is, analytical tools are necessary for monitoring improvements in targeted metabolite conversions and in elucidating alterations to metabolite flux when manipulating lysate metabolism. Here, metabolite analyses using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled with either optical or mass spectrometric detection were applied to characterize metabolite production and flux in E. coli S30 lysates. Specifically, this report describes the preparation of samples from CFME lysates for HPLC analyses using refractive index detection (RID) to quantify the generation of central metabolic intermediates and by-products in the conversion of low-cost substrates (i.e., glucose) to various high-value products. The analysis of metabolite conversion in CFME reactions fed with 13C-labeled glucose through reversed-phase liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), a powerful tool for characterizing specific metabolite yields and lysate metabolic flux from starting materials, is also presented. Altogether, applying these analytical methods to CFME lysate metabolism enables the advancement of these systems as alternative platforms for executing faster or novel metabolic engineering tasks.