Background A reliable quenching and metabolite extraction method has been developed for Lactobacillus plantarum. The energy charge value was used as a critical indicator for fixation of metabolism. Results Four different aqueous quenching solutions, all containing 60% of methanol, were compared for their efficiency. Only the solutions containing either 70 mM HEPES or 0.85% (w/v) ammonium carbonate (pH 5.5) caused less than 10% cell leakage and the energy charge of the quenched cells was high, indicating rapid inactivation of the metabolism. The efficiency of extraction of intracellular metabolites from cell cultures depends on the extraction methods, and is expected to vary between micro-organisms. For L. plantarum, we have compared five different extraction methodologies based on (i) cold methanol, (ii) perchloric acid, (iii) boiling ethanol, (iv) chloroform/methanol (1:1) and (v) chloroform/water (1:1). Quantification of representative intracellular metabolites showed that the best extraction efficiencies were achieved with cold methanol, boiling ethanol and perchloric acid. Conclusion The ammonium carbonate solution was selected as the most suitable quenching buffer for metabolomics studies in L. plantarum because (i) leakage is minimal, (ii) the energy charge indicates good fixation of metabolism, and (iii) all components are easily removed during freeze-drying. A modified procedure based on cold methanol extraction combined good extractability with mild extraction conditions and high enzymatic inactivation. These features make the combination of these quenching and extraction protocols very suitable for metabolomics studies with L. plantarum.
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