Hydrophilic Interaction Liquid Chromatography (HILIC) chromatography is widely applied in metabolomics as a complementary strategy to reverse phase chromatography. Nevertheless, it still faces several issues in terms of peak shape and compounds ionization, limiting the automatic de-convolution and data semi-quantification performed through dedicated software. A way to improve the chromatographic and ionization performance of a HILIC method is to modify the electrostatic interactions of the analytes with both mobile and stationary phases. In this study, using a ZIC-HILIC chromatographic phase, we evaluated the performance of ammonium fluoride (AF) as additive salt, comparing its performance to ammonium acetate (AA). Three comparative criteria were selected: (1) identification and peak quality of 34 standards following a metabolomics-specific evaluation approach, (2) an intraday repeatability test with real samples and (3) performing two real metabolomics fingerprints with the AF method to evaluate its inter-day repeatability. The AF method showed not only higher ionization efficiency and signal-to-noise ratio but also better repeatability and robustness than the AA approach. A tips and tricks section is then added, aiming at improving method replicability for further users. In conclusion, ammonium fluoride as additive salt presents several advantages and might be considered as a step forward in the application of robust HILIC methods in metabolomics.
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