For over a century, the importance of lipid metabolism in biology was recognized but difficult to mechanistically understand due to the lack of sensitive and robust technologies for identification and quantification of lipid molecular species. The enabling technological breakthroughs emerged in the 1980s with the development of soft ionization methods (Electrospray Ionization and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization) that could identify and quantify intact individual lipid molecular species. These soft ionization technologies laid the foundations for what was to be later named the field of lipidomics. Further innovative advances in multistage fragmentation, dramatic improvements in resolution and mass accuracy, and multiplexed sample analysis fueled the early growth of lipidomics through the early 1990s. The field exponentially grew through the use of a variety of strategic approaches, which included direct infusion, chromatographic separation, and charge-switch derivatization, which facilitated access to the low abundance species of the lipidome. In this Thematic Review, we provide a broad perspective of the foundations, enabling advances, and predicted future directions of growth of the lipidomics field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100164
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Charge-switch derivatization
  • Chromatographic separation
  • Electrospray ionization
  • Lipid metabolism
  • Lipids
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Matrixassisted laser desorption/ionization
  • Shotgun lipidomics
  • Soft ionization


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