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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Exploring potential chemical markers by metabolomics method for studying the processing mechanism of traditional Chinese medicine using RPLC-Q-TOF/MS: a case study of Radix Aconiti

Yubo Li1, Yuming Wang1, Lina Su2, Lixin Li1 and Yanjun Zhang1*

Author Affiliations

1 Tianjin Key Laboratory of TCM Chemistry and Analysis, School of Traditional Chinese Materia Medica, Tianjin University of TCM, Tianjin 300193, P. R. China

2 Tianjin Huanhu Hospital, Tianjin 300060, P. R. China

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Chemistry Central Journal 2013, 7:36  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-7-36

Published: 22 February 2013



Pao zhi is a common traditional approach that usually occurs before most herbs are prescribed whereby during processing, secondary plant metabolites are transformed, thus helping to increase potency, reduce toxicity and altering their effects. Using Radix Aconiti (Chuan Wu, CW) as a model herb, suitable chemical markers are crucial for studying the processing mechanisms of these herbs.


In this study, the comprehensive metabolomic characters of CW and Prepared CW (ZCW) by RPLC-Q-TOF/MS were investigated to guarantee clinical safety. Multivariate analyses successfully identified specific metabolite changes between CW and ZCW. In addition, 22 key biomarkers responsible for the detoxifying actions of pao zhi were discovered. The processing mechanism of CW were discussed according to the identified metabolites. This method is efficient, providing more accurate characterisations of traditional pao zhi detoxification.


The proposed strategy proves that RPLC-Q-TOF/MS-based metabolomic analysis does not only explore chemical markers but can also provide a comprehensive understanding of the transformation mechanisms underlying pao zhi.

Metabolomics; Radix Aconiti; Chuan Wu; Reversed phase liquid chromatography/quadrupole time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry