A Comparison of Serum and Plasma Blood Collection Tubes for the Integration of Epidemiological and Metabolomics Data

Jennie Sotelo-Orozco, Shin Yu Chen, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Carolyn M. Slupsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Blood is a rich biological sample routinely collected in clinical and epidemiological studies. With advancements in high throughput -omics technology, such as metabolomics, epidemiology can now delve more deeply and comprehensively into biological mechanisms involved in the etiology of diseases. However, the impact of the blood collection tube matrix of samples collected needs to be carefully considered to obtain meaningful biological interpretations and understand how the metabolite signatures are affected by different tube types. In the present study, we investigated whether the metabolic profile of blood collected as serum differed from samples collected as ACD plasma, citrate plasma, EDTA plasma, fluoride plasma, or heparin plasma. We identified and quantified 50 metabolites present in all samples utilizing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The heparin plasma tubes performed the closest to serum, with only three metabolites showing significant differences, followed by EDTA which significantly differed for five metabolites, and fluoride tubes which differed in eleven of the fifty metabolites. Most of these metabolite differences were due to higher levels of amino acids in serum compared to heparin plasma, EDTA plasma, and fluoride plasma. In contrast, metabolite measurements from ACD and citrate plasma differed significantly for approximately half of the metabolites assessed. These metabolite differences in ACD and citrate plasma were largely due to significant interfering peaks from the anticoagulants themselves. Blood is one of the most banked samples and thus mining and comparing samples between studies requires understanding how the metabolite signature is affected by the different media and different tube types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number682134
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
StatePublished - Jul 8 2021


  • anticoagulants
  • epidemiological studies
  • metabolic profile
  • metabolomics
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • plasma
  • serum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Biology


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