Three-phase liquid extraction: A simple and fast method for lipidomic workflows

Gonçalo Vale, Sarah A. Martin, Matthew A. Mitsche, Bonne M. Thompson, Kaitlyn M. Eckert, Jeffrey G. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


An unbiased sample preparation free of interferents (i.e., competing analytes, detergents, plastics) is critical to any lipid MS workflow. Here we present a novel three-phase lipid extraction (3PLE) technique using a single-step liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) that allows both extraction and fractionation of lipids by polarity. 3PLE is composed of one aqueous and two organic phases. The upper organic phase is enriched in neutral lipids (triacylglycerols and cholesteryl esters), while the middle organic phase contains the major glycerophospholipids. Thin-layer chromatography, radioactive labeling, and MS were used to confirm lipid partitioning. 3PLE efficiency was demonstrated for bovine liver, human pooled plasma, mouse liver, mouse brain, and mouse white adipose tissue. Compared with the gold-standard Bligh/Dyer LLE, 3PLE showed significant advantages. For direct-infusion workflows, there was a decrease in ion suppression with a corresponding increased number of lipid species identified. For LC/MS workflows, increased signal intensities were observed for lower-abundance lipid species such as phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine. 3PLE also proved to be a valuable tool for fatty acid profiling by GC/MS, allowing for the separate identification of neutral and polar fatty acids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-706
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Chemistry
  • Direct infusion
  • Fatty acids
  • Gas chromatography
  • Lipids
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Phospholipids
  • Triglyceride

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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