Table of Contents
ISRN Chromatography
Volume 2013, Article ID 801840, 21 pages
Review Article

Metal Species in Biology: Bottom-Up and Top-Down LC Approaches in Applied Toxicological Research

Department of Chemistry, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada

Received 30 January 2013; Accepted 19 February 2013

Academic Editors: B. K. Mandal, A. Namera, Y. Qiu, and A. I. Suarez

Copyright © 2013 Jürgen Gailer. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since the inception of liquid chromatography (LC) more than 100 years ago this separation technique has been developed into a powerful analytical tool that is frequently applied in life science research. To this end, unique insights into the interaction of metal species (throughout this manuscript “metal species” refers to “toxic metals, metalloid compounds, and metal-based drugs” and “toxic metals” to “toxic metals and metalloid compounds”) with endogenous ligands can be obtained by using LC approaches that involve their hyphenation with inductively coupled plasma-based element specific detectors. This review aims to provide a synopsis of the different LC approaches which may be employed to advance our understanding of these interactions either in a “bottom-up” or a “top-down” manner. In the “bottom-up” LC-configuration, endogenous ligands are introduced into a physiologically relevant mobile phase buffer, and the metal species of interest is injected. Subsequent “interrogation” of the on-column formed complex(es) by employing a suitable separation mechanism (e.g., size exclusion chromatography or reversed-phase LC) while changing the ligand concentration(s), the column temperature or the pH can provide valuable insight into the formation of complexes under near physiological conditions. This approach allows to establish the relative stability and hydrophobicity of metal-ligand complexes as well as the dynamic coordination of a metal species (injected) to two ligands (dissolved in the mobile phase). Conversely, the “top-down” analysis of a biological fluid (e.g., blood plasma) by LC (e.g., using size exclusion chromatography) can be used to determine the size distribution of endogenous metalloproteins which are collectively referred to as the “metalloproteome”. This approach can provide unique insight into the metabolism and the plasma protein binding of metal species, and can simultaneously visualize the dose-dependent perturbation of the metalloproteome by a particular metal species. The concerted application of these LC approaches is destined to provide new insight into biochemical processes which represent an important starting point to advance human health in the 21st century.