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Metabolomics Quality Assurance and Quality Control Materials (MetQual) Program


The NIST Metabolomics Quality Assurance and Quality Control Materials (MetQual) Program has been created to demonstrate and improve the comparability of metabolomics measurements for industry, government, and academic laboratories through the use of NIST Reference Materials and Data (RMDs). The developed RMDs will serve as quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) materials for routine metabolomic measurements, differential studies, interlaboratory comparisons, laboratory and instrument qualification, and training for the metabolomics community. Furthermore, these RMDs will be assessed by both NIST evaluations and community-based interlaboratory comparisons.


Wordcloud figure with about 25 words including NIST, metabolomics, quality assurance, and measurements.
Credit: Lane Sander

Metabolomics includes both targeted identification and quantification of metabolites and non-targeted spectral profiling for identification of molecular signatures indicative of specific phenotypes. This rapidly growing field of systems biology is expanding beyond human health and precision medicine to include food and nutrition, biomanufacturing, and forensic science.  Metabolomics research is vast and involves many factors that affect the results of experiments. Additionally, the analytical data from instruments can be more variable than the actual biological changes being studied. Therefore, it is essential to use quality assurance and quality control materials in metabolomics research to ensure reliable and accurate results.

Many laboratories develop their own quality assurance and quality control materials to ensure consistency within their laboratory. However, these materials are usually not suitable for use in interlaboratory exercises, which are necessary for commercial translation of metabolomic findings. A need exists for a large supply of stable QA/QC materials that can be used both within individual metabolomics studies and measurement campaigns, as well as across various studies and laboratories. Regular use of such materials will result in the standardization of the metabolomics field in its application across academic research, diagnostics and testing laboratories, and various bio-relevant industrial processes.


The purpose of the MetQual program is to provide affordable, stable, homogenous QA/QC materials to meet the needs of the metabolomics community. The goal is for these materials and their associated data (RMDs) to be evaluated by both NIST and the metabolomics community via interlaboratory comparison exercises, with a focus on qualitative characterization (i.e., identification of detected metabolites and discriminant metabolite fold changes). These RMDs may serve as valuable materials to harmonize measurements.


Met Qual Program Coordinators, metqual [at] (metqual[at]nist[dot]gov)


1. Lippa, K. A., Aristizabal-Henao, J. J., Beger, R. D., Bowden, J. A., Broeckling, C., Beecher, C., Davis, W. C., Dunn, W. B., Flores, R., Goodacre, R., Gouveia, G. J., Harms, A. C., Hartung, T., Jones, C. M., Lewis, M. R., Ntai, I., Percy, A. J., Raftery, D., Schock, T. B., Sun, J. C., Theodoridis, G., Tayyari, F., Torta, F., Ulmer, C. Z., Wilson, I., and Ubhi, B. K., "Reference materials for MS-based untargeted metabolomics and lipidomics: a review by the metabolomics quality assurance and quality control consortium (mQACC)," Metabolomics, 18, (2022). 

2. Bearden, D. W., Sheen, D. A., Simon-Manso, Y., Benner, B. A., Rocha, W. F. C., Blonder, N., Lippa, K. A., Beger, R. D., Schnackenberg, L. K., Sun, J. C., Mehta, K. Y., Cheema, A. K., Gu, H. W., Marupaka, R., Gowda, G. A. N., and Raftery, D., "Metabolomics Test Materials for Quality Control: A Study of a Urine Materials Suite," Metabolites, 9, (2019). 

2. Casu, F., Watson, A. M., Yost, J., Leffler, J. W., Gaylord, T. G., Barrows, F. T., Sandifer, P. A., Denson, M. R., and Bearden, D. W., "Investigation of graded-level soybean meal diets in red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) using NMR-based metabolomics analysis," Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology D-Genomics & Proteomics, 29, 173-184 (2019). 

3. Watson, A. M., Casu, F., Bearden, D. W., Yost, J., Denson, M. R., Gaylord, T. G., Anderson, P., Sandifer, P. A., Leffler, J. W., and Barrows, F. T., "Investigation of graded levels of soybean meal diets for red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, using quantitative PCR derived biomarkers," Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology D-Genomics & Proteomics, 29, 274-285 (2019). 

4. Rocha, W. F. D., Sheen, D. A., and Bearden, D. W., "Classification of samples from NMR-based metabolomics using principal components analysis and partial least squares with uncertainty estimation," Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 410, 6305-6319 (2018). 

5. Casu, F., Watson, A. M., Yost, J., Leffler, J. W., Gaylord, T. G., Barrows, F. T., Sandifer, P. A., Denson, M. R., and Bearden, D. W., "Metabolomics Analysis of Effects of Commercial Soy-based Protein Products in Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus)," Journal of Proteome Research, 16, 2481-2494 (2017). 

6. Sheen, D. A., Rocha, W. F. C., Lippa, K. A., and Bearden, D. W., "A scoring metric for multivariate data for reproducibility analysis using chemometric methods," Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems, 162, 10-20 (2017). 

7. Simon-Manso, Y., Lowenthal, M. S., Kilpatrick, L. E., Sampson, M. L., Telu, K. H., Rudnick, P. A., Mallard, W. G., Bearden, D. W., Schock, T. B., Tchekhovskoi, D. V., Blonder, N., Yan, X. J., Liang, Y. X., Zheng, Y. F., Wallace, W. E., Neta, P., Phinney, K. W., Remaley, A. T., and Stein, S. E., "Metabolite Profiling of a NIST Standard Reference Material for Human Plasma (SRM 1950): GC-MS, LC-MS, NMR, and Clinical Laboratory Analyses, Libraries, and Web-Based Resources," Analytical Chemistry, 85, 11725-11731 (2013). 

Created April 6, 2018, Updated April 19, 2024