Quantitation of circulating short-chain fatty acids in small volume blood samples from animals and humans
Journal article, 2024

Background: The role of gut microbiota in human health has been intensively studied and more recently shifted from emphasis on composition towards function. Function is partly mediated through formed metabolites. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate as well as their branched analogues represent major products from gut fermentation of dietary fibre and proteins, respectively. Robust and high-throughput analysis of SCFAs in small volume blood samples have proven difficult. Major obstacles come from the ubiquitous presence of SCFAs that leads to contaminations and unstable analytical results because of the high volatility of these small molecules. Comprehensive and comparable data on the variation of SCFAs in blood samples from different blood matrices and mammal species including humans is lacking. Therefore, our aim was to develop and evaluate a stable and robust method for quantitation of 8 SCFAs and related fermentation products in small volume blood plasma samples and to investigate their variation in humans and different animal species. Results: Derivatization was a successful approach for measurement of SCFAs in biological samples but quenching of the derivatization reaction was crucial to obtain long-term stability of the derivatized analytes. In total 9 compounds (including succinic acid) were separated in 5 min. The method was linear over the range 0.6–3200 nM formic (FA), acetic (AA), 0.3–1600 nM propionic (PA), and 0.16–800 nM for butyric (BA)-, isobutyric (IBA)-, valeric (VA)-, isovaleric (IVA)-, succinic (SA) and caproic acid (CA). The precision ranged ≤12 % within days and ≤28 % between days (except for CA and VA) in three different plasma quality control (QC) samples (29 batches analyzed over 3 months). The extraction recovery was on average 94 % for the different SCFAs. Typical interquartile range (IQR) concentrations (μM) of SCFAs in human plasma samples were 168 μM (FA), 64 μM (AA), 2.2 μM (PA), 0.54 μM (BA), 0.66 μM (IBA), 0.18 μM (VA), 0.40 μM (IVA), and 0.34 μM (CA). In total, 55 samples per batch/day were successfully analyzed and in total 5380 human plasma samples measured over a 3-year timespan. Significance: The developed UHPLC-MS based method was suitable for measuring SCFAs in small blood volume samples and enabled robust quantitative data.


Mass spectrometry


Short-chain fatty acids



Rikard Fristedt

Chalmers, Life Sciences, Food and Nutrition Science

Vanessa Ruppert

Chalmers, Life Sciences, Food and Nutrition Science

Tania Trower

The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited

Janine Cooney

The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited

Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Life Sciences, Food and Nutrition Science


0039-9140 (ISSN)

Vol. 272 125743

Discovery and valdiation of novel biomarkers of gut microbiota, diet and their interactions associated with type 2 diabetes risk

Swedish Research Council (VR) (2019-01264), 2020-01-01 -- 2022-12-31.

Subject Categories

Nutrition and Dietetics



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