While substantial efforts have been made to optimize and standardize fecal metabolomics for studies in adults, the development of a standard protocol to analyze infant feces is, however, still lagging behind. Here, we present the development of a hands-on and robust protocol for proton 1H NMR spectroscopy of infant feces. The influence of extraction solvent, dilution ratio, homogenization method, filtration, and duration of centrifugation on the biochemical composition of infant feces was carefully evaluated using visual inspection of 1H NMR spectra in combination with multivariate statistical modeling. The optimal metabolomics protocol was subsequently applied on feces from seven infants collected at 8 weeks, 4, and 9 months of age. Interindividual variation was exceeding the variation induced by different fecal sample preparation methods, except for filtration. We recommend extracting fecal samples using water with a dilution ratio of 1:5 feces-to-water to homogenize using bead beating and to remove particulates using centrifugation. Samples collected from infants aged 8 weeks and 4 months showed elevated concentrations of milk oligosaccharide derivatives and lactic acid, whereas short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) were higher in the 9 month samples. The established protocol enables hands-on and robust analyses of the infant gut metabolome. The wide-ranging application of this protocol will facilitate interlaboratory comparison of infants' metabolic profiles and finally aid in a better understanding of infant gut health.
- NMR spectroscopy