Cellular lipidomic studies have been favored approaches in many biomedical research areas. To provide fair comparisons of the studied cells, it is essential to perform normalization of the determined concentration before lipidomic analysis. This study proposed a cellular lipidomic normalization method by measuring the phosphatidylcholine (PC) and sphingomyelin (SM) contents in cell extracts. To provide efficient analysis of PC and SM in cell extracts, flow injection analysis-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (FIA-ESI-MS/MS) with a precursor ion scan (PIS) of m/z 184 was used, and the parameters affecting the performance of the method were optimized. Good linearity could be observed between the cell extract dilution factor and the reciprocal of the total ion chromatogram (TIC) area in the PIS of m/z 184 within the dilution range of 1- to 16-fold (R2 = 0.998). The calibration curve could be used for concentration adjustment of the unknown concentration of a cell extract. The intraday and intermediate precisions were below 10%. The accuracy ranged from 93.0% to 105.6%. The performance of the new normalization method was evaluated using different numbers of HCT-116 cells. Sphingosine, ceramide (d18:1/18:0), SM (d18:1/18:0) and PC (16:1/18:0) were selected as the representative test lipid species, and the results showed that the peak areas of each lipid species obtained from different cell numbers were within a 20% variation after normalization. Finally, the PIS of 184 normalization method was applied to study ischemia-induced neuron injury using oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD) on primary neuronal cultured cells. Our results showed that the PIS of 184 normalization method is an efficient and effective approach for concentration normalization in cellular lipidomic studies.
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