Untargeted metabolomics study of volatile organic compounds produced by different cell cultures is a field that has gained increasing attention over the years. Solid-phase microextraction has been the sampling technique of choice for most of the applications mainly due to its simplicity to implement. However, a careful optimization of the analytical conditions is necessary to obtain the best performances, which are highly matrix-dependent. In this work, five different solid-phase microextraction fibers were compared for the analysis of the volatiles produced by cell culture infected with the human respiratory syncytial virus. A central composite design was applied to determine the best time-temperature combination to maximize the extraction efficiency and the salting-out effect was evaluated as well. The linearity of the optimized method, along with limits of detection and quantification and repeatability was assessed. Finally, the effect of i) different normalization techniques (i.e. z-score and probabilistic quotient normalization), ii) data transformation (i.e. in logarithmic scale), and iii) different feature selection algorithms (i.e. Fisher ratio and random forest) on the capability of discriminating between infected and not-infected cell culture was evaluated.
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