Real-Time Metabolomics on Living Microorganisms Using Ambient Electrospray Ionization Flow-Probe

Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi produce a variety of specialized metabolites that are invaluable for agriculture, biological research, and drug discovery. However, the screening of microbial metabolic output is usually a time-intensive task. Here, we utilize a liquid microjunction surface sampling probe for electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry to extract and ionize metabolite mixtures directly from living microbial colonies grown on soft nutrient agar in Petri-dishes without any sample pretreatment. To demonstrate the robustness of the method, this technique was applied to observe the metabolic output of more than 30 microorganisms, including yeast, filamentous fungi, pathogens, and marine-derived bacteria, that were collected worldwide. Diverse natural products produced from different microbes, including Streptomyces coelicolor, Bacillus subtilis, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are further characterized.