ICP-MS/MS-Based Ionomics: A Validated Methodology to Investigate the Biological Variability of the Human Ionome

We here describe the development, validation and application of a quantitative methodology for the simultaneous determination of 29 elements in human serum using state-of-the-art inductively coupled plasma triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (ICP-MS/MS). This new methodology offers high-throughput elemental profiling using simple dilution of minimal quantity of serum samples. We report the outcomes of the validation procedure including limits of detection/quantification, linearity of calibration curves, precision, recovery and measurement uncertainty. ICP-MS/MS-based ionomics was used to analyze human serum of 120 older adults. Following a metabolomic data mining approach, the generated ionome profiles were subjected to principal component analysis revealing gender and age-specific differences. The ionome of female individuals was marked by higher levels of calcium, phosphorus, copper and copper to zinc ratio, while iron concentration was lower with respect to male subjects. Age was associated with lower concentrations of zinc. These findings were complemented with additional readouts to interpret micronutrient status including ceruloplasmin, ferritin and inorganic phosphate. Our data supports a gender-specific compartmentalization of the ionome that may reflect different bone remodelling in female individuals. Our ICP-MS/MS methodology enriches the panel of validated “Omics” approaches to study molecular relationships between the exposome and the ionome in relation with nutrition and health.