Molecular Analysis

The Molecular Analysis facility exists primarily to support studies of plant and microbial metabolism across the John Innes Centre and the Norwich Research Park, where we collaborate with a range of groups to carry out metabolomic studies and small molecule analysis.

We also help those who prefer to carry out their own work, by providing access to instruments and training in their use and provide advice on metabolomic techniques, and training in basic data interpretation.


Metabolomic technologies, and supporting expertise, enable us to identify the entire metabolite complement (metabolome) of a sample, whether from a cell or whole organism. 

There are two different approaches to metabolite analysis: metabolite profiling and untargeted metabolomics. The most popular analytical approach is to utilise LC-MS or GC-MS.

For metabolite profiling, a very large number of known metabolites are targeted and measured. This is particularly appropriate, for example in medicine, where we know what chemicals are involved in human metabolism but want to know how they are affected by an illness or drug.

In untargeted metabolomics, the aim is to measure a wide range of metabolites without knowing their identity in advance, although we might have some idea about the type compound class (e.g. plant pigments, antibiotics from a microbe, etc.). However, we are typically working without any pre-conceptions. The primary goal is to investigate any metabolite changes in response to a specific treatment or metabolite differences between different types of plant or microbe.

The Molecular Analysis equipment and services at the John Innes Centre, include;

  • Synapt G2i Q-ToF equipped for nano-flow UPLC, conventional UPLC, Maldi, and DESI imaging
  • Bruker Maldi ToF
  • Shimadzu IT-ToF LC-MS equipped with UHPLC and PDA
  • Shimadzu 2020 single quadrupole MS detector, with UHPLC, also equipped with PDA, fluorescence and charged aerosol detectors and fraction collection
  • Waters Xevo TQS triple quadrupole LC-MS, with Acquity UPLC
  • Dionex HPLC with fixed-wavelength and charged aerosol detection
  • Dionex ion chromatography system with pulsed amperometry
  • Agilent 1290 HPLC with PDA and fraction collection
  • Two Agilent GC-MS systems, one equipped with a cutting-edge Gerstel sample preparation robot, capable of derivatisation, centrifugation, incubation, drying and automated SPME.EI

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