Project Details Metal-focussed -omics: guidelines for terminology and critical evaluation of analytical approaches

Project No.: 
Start Date: 
01 January 2007
End Date: 
28 February 2010


The objectives of the project are (1) the definition of terms relatedto analytical chemistry of interactions of metals with biomoleculesin environmental, nutrition and life-sciences, such as e.g. metallome,metalloproteome, and the corresponding -omics, (2) a critical evaluationof analytical techniques suitable for metallomics, and validity andpertinence of data obtained.


Bioinorganic analytical chemistry is a rapidly developing discipline at the interface of trace element analysis and analytical biochemistry which targets the detection, quantitation, identification and characterization of complexes of metals (metalloids) with molecules of natural origin (biomolecules) by hyphenated (coupled) techniques (PAC, 1999, 71, 899-917). The advances of trace element analysis in life sciences resulted in proliferation of new terms related to the description of metal-interactions with biomolecules. Examples of these terms include: metallome, ionome, metalloproteome, metallogenome, metallometabolome, heteroatom-tagged proteome, single element proteomes (ex. selenoproteome) and the corresponding -omics. The terms are being coined by various disciplines and the lack of communication among them results in the growing confusion. All terms are very recent and have not been considered in the Guidelines for Terms Related to Chemical Speciation Analysis published in PAC, 2000, 72, 1453-1470.

In addition to the confusion in terminology, the methodological approaches are proper to each individual discipline. They have all the characteristics to be complementary but in practice they are carried out independently, with no communication channels among the communities. These approaches include: (i) in silico metal-binding motif analysis, (ii) bio-X-ray Absorption Spectrometry analysis of metal content, oxidation state and metal-site structures (iii) laser ablation-ICP MS elemental mapping in non-denaturating gel electrophoresis (in combination with MALDI and/or ESI MS), (iv) chromatography with the parallel ICP MS and ES MS/MS detection, (v) immobilized-metal affinity chromatography (IMAC) for the isolation of metalloproteomes, (vi) element mapping in biological tissues), and (vii) metal isotope bioanalysis (fractionation during biological trafficking and natural processing, tracer experiments using enriched stable isotopes, isotope dilution analysis). The project intends a critical analysis of these approaches, of the information they produce and of the validity of data obtained.

The project targets the speciation analysis community organised around the European Virtual Institute of Speciation Analysis (EVISA,, structural genomic consortia, clinical biochemistry, medicine and health sciences communities (characterization of metal-related diseases and related areas, heteroatom-containing species as new clinical biomarkers), nutrition and metabolic sciences (molecular targets of metal binding for essential nutrients and toxic metals), and environmental toxicology (toxic metals in life-sciences and their environmental effects). It should be of interest to regulatory bodies answering the question on what valid information can be obtained in quantitative and routine way in the metal-related -omics areas.


>project announcement published in Chem. Int. July/Aug 2007, p. 24

> July 2007 report update (pdf file – 6KB)

> October 2008 report update (pdf file – 12KB)

Feb 2010 – Project completed – IUPAC report titled
‘Metallomics: Guidelines for terminology and critical evaluation of analytical chemistry approaches’ published in Pure Appl. Chem. 2010, Vol. 82, No. 2, pp. 493-504 ; doi:10.1351/PAC-REP-09-03-04