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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Untargeted Soil Metabolomics Using Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry.


The molecular composition of soil organic matter (SOM) sets the foundation for terrestrial microbial community structures and carbon cycling dynamics. However, the specific chemical constituents of SOM are underexplored. In this chapter we present a protocol for the extraction of small molecule metabolites from soil followed by compound detection and identification using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. There are options within the protocol to assess either the extracellular pool of metabolites or the total pool (including intracellular) and either polar or nonpolar metabolites, depending on the reader's research interests. These methods can be followed individually for a more targeted analysis or all methods can be combined to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of SOM metabolite composition (such as amino acids, nucleobases, organic acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, secondary metabolites, and antibiotics).

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