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1.  Genetic determinants of metabolism in health and disease: from biochemical genetics to genome-wide associations 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(4):30.
Increasingly sophisticated measurement technologies have allowed the fields of metabolomics and genomics to identify, in parallel, risk factors of disease; predict drug metabolism; and study metabolic and genetic diversity in large human populations. Yet the complementarity of these fields and the utility of studying genes and metabolites together is belied by the frequent separate, parallel applications of genomic and metabolomic analysis. Early attempts at identifying co-variation and interaction between genetic variants and downstream metabolic changes, including metabolic profiling of human Mendelian diseases and quantitative trait locus mapping of individual metabolite concentrations, have recently been extended by new experimental designs that search for a large number of gene-metabolite associations. These approaches, including metabolomic quantitiative trait locus mapping and metabolomic genome-wide association studies, involve the concurrent collection of both genomic and metabolomic data and a subsequent search for statistical associations between genetic polymorphisms and metabolite concentrations across a broad range of genes and metabolites. These new data-fusion techniques will have important consequences in functional genomics, microbial metagenomics and disease modeling, the early results and implications of which are reviewed.
PMCID: PMC3446258  PMID: 22546284
Metabonomics/metabolomics; Quantitative Trait Locus Mapping; Biochemical Genetics; NMR; MS
2.  On the hypothesis-free testing of metabolite ratios in genome-wide and metabolome-wide association studies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:120.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) with metabolic traits and metabolome-wide association studies (MWAS) with traits of biomedical relevance are powerful tools to identify the contribution of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors to the etiology of complex diseases. Hypothesis-free testing of ratios between all possible metabolite pairs in GWAS and MWAS has proven to be an innovative approach in the discovery of new biologically meaningful associations. The p-gain statistic was introduced as an ad-hoc measure to determine whether a ratio between two metabolite concentrations carries more information than the two corresponding metabolite concentrations alone. So far, only a rule of thumb was applied to determine the significance of the p-gain.
Here we explore the statistical properties of the p-gain through simulation of its density and by sampling of experimental data. We derive critical values of the p-gain for different levels of correlation between metabolite pairs and show that B/(2*α) is a conservative critical value for the p-gain, where α is the level of significance and B the number of tested metabolite pairs.
We show that the p-gain is a well defined measure that can be used to identify statistically significant metabolite ratios in association studies and provide a conservative significance cut-off for the p-gain for use in future association studies with metabolic traits.
PMCID: PMC3537592  PMID: 22672667
p-gain; Metabolomics; MWAS; GWAS; Genome-wide association studies; Metabolome-wide association studies
3.  Human metabolic individuality in biomedical and pharmaceutical research 
Nature  2011;477(7362):10.1038/nature10354.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many risk loci for complex diseases, but effect sizes are typically small and information on the underlying biological processes is often lacking. Associations with metabolic traits as functional intermediates can overcome these problems and potentially inform individualized therapy. Here we report a comprehensive analysis of genotype-dependent metabolic phenotypes using a GWAS with non-targeted metabolomics. We identified 37 genetic loci associated with blood metabolite concentrations, of which 25 exhibit effect sizes that are unusually high for GWAS and account for 10-60% of metabolite levels per allele copy. Our associations provide new functional insights for many disease-related associations that have been reported in previous studies, including cardiovascular and kidney disorders, type 2 diabetes, cancer, gout, venous thromboembolism, and Crohn’s disease. Taken together our study advances our knowledge of the genetic basis of metabolic individuality in humans and generates many new hypotheses for biomedical and pharmaceutical research.
PMCID: PMC3832838  PMID: 21886157
4.  Identification and MS-assisted interpretation of genetically influenced NMR signals in human plasma 
Genome Medicine  2013;5(2):13.
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) provides robust readouts of many metabolic parameters in one experiment. However, identification of clinically relevant markers in 1H NMR spectra is a major challenge. Association of NMR-derived quantities with genetic variants can uncover biologically relevant metabolic traits. Using NMR data of plasma samples from 1,757 individuals from the KORA study together with 655,658 genetic variants, we show that ratios between NMR intensities at two chemical shift positions can provide informative and robust biomarkers. We report seven loci of genetic association with NMR-derived traits (APOA1, CETP, CPS1, GCKR, FADS1, LIPC, PYROXD2) and characterize these traits biochemically using mass spectrometry. These ratios may now be used in clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3706909  PMID: 23414815
5.  Annotation of Plant Gene Function via Combined Genomics, Metabolomics and Informatics 
Given the ever expanding number of model plant species for which complete genome sequences are available and the abundance of bio-resources such as knockout mutants, wild accessions and advanced breeding populations, there is a rising burden for gene functional annotation. In this protocol, annotation of plant gene function using combined co-expression gene analysis, metabolomics and informatics is provided (Figure 1). This approach is based on the theory of using target genes of known function to allow the identification of non-annotated genes likely to be involved in a certain metabolic process, with the identification of target compounds via metabolomics. Strategies are put forward for applying this information on populations generated by both forward and reverse genetics approaches in spite of none of these are effortless. By corollary this approach can also be used as an approach to characterise unknown peaks representing new or specific secondary metabolites in the limited tissues, plant species or stress treatment, which is currently the important trial to understanding plant metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3476379  PMID: 22733029
Plant Biology;  Issue 64;  Genetics;  Bioinformatics;  Metabolomics;  Plant metabolism;  Transcriptome analysis;  Functional annotation;  Computational biology;  Plant biology;  Theoretical biology;  Spectroscopy and structural analysis
6.  Genome-wide association studies with metabolomics 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(4):34.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) analyze the genetic component of a phenotype or the etiology of a disease. Despite the success of many GWAS, little progress has been made in uncovering the underlying mechanisms for many diseases. The use of metabolomics as a readout of molecular phenotypes has enabled the discovery of previously undetected associations between diseases and signaling and metabolic pathways. In addition, combining GWAS and metabolomic information allows the simultaneous analysis of the genetic and environmental impacts on homeostasis. Most success has been seen in metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and dyslipidemia. Recently, associations between loci such as FADS1, ELOVL2 or SLC16A9 and lipid concentrations have been explained by GWAS with metabolomics. Combining GWAS with metabolomics (mGWAS) provides the robust and quantitative information required for the development of specific diagnostics and targeted drugs. This review discusses the limitations of GWAS and presents examples of how metabolomics can overcome these limitations with the focus on metabolic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3446262  PMID: 22546499
complex disease; genetics; metabolomics; metabolic traits; pathway inference
7.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Metabolic Traits Reveals Novel Gene-Metabolite-Disease Links 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1004132.
Metabolic traits are molecular phenotypes that can drive clinical phenotypes and may predict disease progression. Here, we report results from a metabolome- and genome-wide association study on 1H-NMR urine metabolic profiles. The study was conducted within an untargeted approach, employing a novel method for compound identification. From our discovery cohort of 835 Caucasian individuals who participated in the CoLaus study, we identified 139 suggestively significant (P<5×10−8) and independent associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and metabolome features. Fifty-six of these associations replicated in the TasteSensomics cohort, comprising 601 individuals from São Paulo of vastly diverse ethnic background. They correspond to eleven gene-metabolite associations, six of which had been previously identified in the urine metabolome and three in the serum metabolome. Our key novel findings are the associations of two SNPs with NMR spectral signatures pointing to fucose (rs492602, P = 6.9×10−44) and lysine (rs8101881, P = 1.2×10−33), respectively. Fine-mapping of the first locus pinpointed the FUT2 gene, which encodes a fucosyltransferase enzyme and has previously been associated with Crohn's disease. This implicates fucose as a potential prognostic disease marker, for which there is already published evidence from a mouse model. The second SNP lies within the SLC7A9 gene, rare mutations of which have been linked to severe kidney damage. The replication of previous associations and our new discoveries demonstrate the potential of untargeted metabolomics GWAS to robustly identify molecular disease markers.
Author Summary
The concentrations of small molecules known as metabolites, are subject to tight regulation in all organisms. Collectively, the metabolite concentrations make up the metabolome, which differs amongst individuals as a function of their environment and genetic makeup. In our study, we have further developed an untargeted approach to identify genetic factors affecting human metabolism. In this approach, we first identify all genetic variants that correlate with any of the measured metabolome features in a large set of individuals. For these variants, we then compute a profile of significance for association with all features, generating a signature that facilitates the expert or computational identification of the metabolite whose concentration is most likely affected by the genetic variant at hand. Our study replicated many of the previously reported genetically driven variations in human metabolism and revealed two new striking examples of genetic variations with a sizeable effect on the urine metabolome. Interestingly, in these two gene-metabolite pairs both the gene and the affected metabolite are related to human diseases – Crohn's disease in the first case, and kidney disease in the second. This highlights the connection between genetic predispositions, affected metabolites, and human health.
PMCID: PMC3930510  PMID: 24586186
8.  Correlation exploration of metabolic and genomic diversity in rice 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:568.
It is essential to elucidate the relationship between metabolic and genomic diversity to understand the genetic regulatory networks associated with the changing metabolo-phenotype among natural variation and/or populations. Recent innovations in metabolomics technologies allow us to grasp the comprehensive features of the metabolome. Metabolite quantitative trait analysis is a key approach for the identification of genetic loci involved in metabolite variation using segregated populations. Although several attempts have been made to find correlative relationships between genetic and metabolic diversity among natural populations in various organisms, it is still unclear whether it is possible to discover such correlations between each metabolite and the polymorphisms found at each chromosomal location. To assess the correlative relationship between the metabolic and genomic diversity found in rice accessions, we compared the distance matrices for these two "omics" patterns in the rice accessions.
We selected 18 accessions from the world rice collection based on their population structure. To determine the genomic diversity of the rice genome, we genotyped 128 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers to calculate the genetic distance among the accessions. To identify the variations in the metabolic fingerprint, a soluble extract from the seed grain of each accession was analyzed with one dimensional 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). We found no correlation between global metabolic diversity and the phylogenetic relationships among the rice accessions (rs = 0.14) by analyzing the distance matrices (calculated from the pattern of the metabolic fingerprint in the 4.29- to 0.71-ppm 1H chemical shift) and the genetic distance on the basis of the RFLP markers. However, local correlation analysis between the distance matrices (derived from each 0.04-ppm integral region of the 1H chemical shift) against genetic distance matrices (derived from sets of 3 adjacent markers along each chromosome), generated clear correlations (rs > 0.4, p < 0.001) at 34 RFLP markers.
This combinatorial approach will be valuable for exploring the correlative relationships between metabolic and genomic diversity. It will facilitate the elucidation of complex regulatory networks and those of evolutionary significance in plant metabolic systems.
PMCID: PMC3087559  PMID: 19948071
9.  Exploring metabolic pathway disruption in the subchronic phencyclidine model of schizophrenia with the Generalized Singular Value Decomposition 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:72.
The quantification of experimentally-induced alterations in biological pathways remains a major challenge in systems biology. One example of this is the quantitative characterization of alterations in defined, established metabolic pathways from complex metabolomic data. At present, the disruption of a given metabolic pathway is inferred from metabolomic data by observing an alteration in the level of one or more individual metabolites present within that pathway. Not only is this approach open to subjectivity, as metabolites participate in multiple pathways, but it also ignores useful information available through the pairwise correlations between metabolites. This extra information may be incorporated using a higher-level approach that looks for alterations between a pair of correlation networks. In this way experimentally-induced alterations in metabolic pathways can be quantitatively defined by characterizing group differences in metabolite clustering. Taking this approach increases the objectivity of interpreting alterations in metabolic pathways from metabolomic data.
We present and justify a new technique for comparing pairs of networks--in our case these networks are based on the same set of nodes and there are two distinct types of weighted edges. The algorithm is based on the Generalized Singular Value Decomposition (GSVD), which may be regarded as an extension of Principle Components Analysis to the case of two data sets. We show how the GSVD can be interpreted as a technique for reordering the two networks in order to reveal clusters that are exclusive to only one. Here we apply this algorithm to a new set of metabolomic data from the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of a translational model relevant to schizophrenia, rats treated subchronically with the N-methyl-D-Aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist phencyclidine (PCP). This provides us with a means to quantify which predefined metabolic pathways (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) metabolite pathway database) were altered in the PFC of PCP-treated rats. Several significant changes were discovered, notably: 1) neuroactive ligands active at glutamate and GABA receptors are disrupted in the PFC of PCP-treated animals, 2) glutamate dysfunction in these animals was not limited to compromised glutamatergic neurotransmission but also involves the disruption of metabolic pathways linked to glutamate; and 3) a specific series of purine reactions Xanthine ← Hypoxyanthine ↔ Inosine ← IMP → adenylosuccinate is also disrupted in the PFC of PCP-treated animals.
Network reordering via the GSVD provides a means to discover statistically validated differences in clustering between a pair of networks. In practice this analytical approach, when applied to metabolomic data, allows us to quantify the alterations in metabolic pathways between two experimental groups. With this new computational technique we identified metabolic pathway alterations that are consistent with known results. Furthermore, we discovered disruption in a novel series of purine reactions that may contribute to the PFC dysfunction and cognitive deficits seen in schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3239845  PMID: 21575198
10.  A Genome-Wide Association Study of the Human Metabolome in a Community-Based Cohort 
Cell metabolism  2013;18(1):130-143.
Because metabolites are hypothesized to play key roles as markers and effectors of cardio-metabolic diseases, recent studies have sought to annotate the genetic determinants of circulating metabolite levels. We report a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 217 plasma metabolites, including >100 not measured in prior GWAS, in 2,076 participants of the Framingham Heart Study. For the majority of analytes, we find that estimated heritability explains >20% of inter-individual variation, and that variation attributable to heritable factors is greater than that attributable to clinical factors. Further, we identify 31 genetic loci associated with plasma metabolites, including 23 that have not previously been reported. Importantly, we include GWAS results for all surveyed metabolites, and demonstrate how this information highlights a role for AGXT2 in cholesterol ester and triacylglycerol metabolism. Thus, our study outlines the relative contributions of inherited and clinical factors on the plasma metabolome and provides a resource for metabolism research.
PMCID: PMC3973158  PMID: 23823483
11.  Automated workflow-based exploitation of pathway databases provides new insights into genetic associations of metabolite profiles 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:865.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that associate with clinical phenotypes, but these SNPs usually explain just a small part of the heritability and have relatively modest effect sizes. In contrast, SNPs that associate with metabolite levels generally explain a higher percentage of the genetic variation and demonstrate larger effect sizes. Still, the discovery of SNPs associated with metabolite levels is challenging since testing all metabolites measured in typical metabolomics studies with all SNPs comes with a severe multiple testing penalty. We have developed an automated workflow approach that utilizes prior knowledge of biochemical pathways present in databases like KEGG and BioCyc to generate a smaller SNP set relevant to the metabolite. This paper explores the opportunities and challenges in the analysis of GWAS of metabolomic phenotypes and provides novel insights into the genetic basis of metabolic variation through the re-analysis of published GWAS datasets.
Re-analysis of the published GWAS dataset from Illig et al. (Nature Genetics, 2010) using a pathway-based workflow (, confirmed previously identified hits and identified a new locus of human metabolic individuality, associating Aldehyde dehydrogenase family1 L1 (ALDH1L1) with serine/glycine ratios in blood. Replication in an independent GWAS dataset of phospholipids (Demirkan et al., PLoS Genetics, 2012) identified two novel loci supported by additional literature evidence: GPAM (Glycerol-3 phosphate acyltransferase) and CBS (Cystathionine beta-synthase). In addition, the workflow approach provided novel insight into the affected pathways and relevance of some of these gene-metabolite pairs in disease development and progression.
We demonstrate the utility of automated exploitation of background knowledge present in pathway databases for the analysis of GWAS datasets of metabolomic phenotypes. We report novel loci and potential biochemical mechanisms that contribute to our understanding of the genetic basis of metabolic variation and its relationship to disease development and progression.
PMCID: PMC3879060  PMID: 24320595
Genome-wide association; Metabolite; Genotype-phenotype prioritization; Bioinformatics; Pathway databases
12.  Recent advances of metabolomics in plant biotechnology 
Plant Biotechnology Reports  2011;6(1):1-15.
Biotechnology, including genetic modification, is a very important approach to regulate the production of particular metabolites in plants to improve their adaptation to environmental stress, to improve food quality, and to increase crop yield. Unfortunately, these approaches do not necessarily lead to the expected results due to the highly complex mechanisms underlying metabolic regulation in plants. In this context, metabolomics plays a key role in plant molecular biotechnology, where plant cells are modified by the expression of engineered genes, because we can obtain information on the metabolic status of cells via a snapshot of their metabolome. Although metabolome analysis could be used to evaluate the effect of foreign genes and understand the metabolic state of cells, there is no single analytical method for metabolomics because of the wide range of chemicals synthesized in plants. Here, we describe the basic analytical advancements in plant metabolomics and bioinformatics and the application of metabolomics to the biological study of plants.
PMCID: PMC3262138  PMID: 22308170
Metabolomics; Mass spectrometry; NMR; Functional genomics; GMO; Quantitative genetics; QTL
13.  Genome metabolome integrated network analysis to uncover connections between genetic variants and complex traits: an application to obesity 
Current studies of phenotype diversity by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are mainly focused on identifying genetic variants that influence level changes of individual traits without considering additional alterations at the system-level. However, in addition to level alterations of single phenotypes, differences in association between phenotype levels are observed across different physiological states. Such differences in molecular correlations between states can potentially reveal information about the system state beyond that reported by changes in mean levels alone. In this study, we describe a novel methodological approach, which we refer to as genome metabolome integrated network analysis (GEMINi) consisting of a combination of correlation network analysis and genome-wide correlation study. The proposed methodology exploits differences in molecular associations to uncover genetic variants involved in phenotype variation. We test the performance of the GEMINi approach in a simulation study and illustrate its use in the context of obesity and detailed quantitative metabolomics data on systemic metabolism. Application of GEMINi revealed a set of metabolic associations which differ between normal and obese individuals. While no significant associations were found between genetic variants and body mass index using a standard GWAS approach, further investigation of the identified differences in metabolic association revealed a number of loci, several of which have been previously implicated with obesity-related processes. This study highlights the advantage of using molecular associations as an alternative phenotype when studying the genetic basis of complex traits and diseases.
PMCID: PMC3973353  PMID: 24573330
correlation analysis; differential networks; genome-wide association analysis; metabolomics; GEMINi
14.  Targeted Metabolomics 
Current Protocols in Molecular Biology  2012;CHAPTER:Unit30.2.
The metabolome is the terminal downstream product of the genome and consists of the total complement of all the low molecular weight molecules (metabolites) in a cell, tissue or organism. Metabolomics aims to measure a wide breadth of small molecules in the context of physiological stimuli or in disease states. Metabolomics methodologies fall into two distinct groups; untargeted metabolomics, an intended comprehensive analysis of all the measurable analytes in a sample including chemical unknowns, and targeted metabolomics, the measurement of defined groups of chemically characterized and biochemically annotated metabolites. The methodologies considered in this unit focus on the processes of conducting targeted metabolomics experiments, and the advantages of this general approach are highlighted herein. This unit outlines the procedures for extracting nitrogenous metabolites, including the amino acids, lipids, and intermediary metabolites, including the TCA cycle oxoacids, from blood plasma. Specifically, protocols for the analysis of these metabolites using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-based targeted metabolomics experiments is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3334318  PMID: 22470063
Targeted Metabolomics; Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry; Multiple Reaction Monitoring
15.  Genetic Basis of Metabolome Variation in Yeast 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004142.
Metabolism, the conversion of nutrients into usable energy and biochemical building blocks, is an essential feature of all cells. The genetic factors responsible for inter-individual metabolic variability remain poorly understood. To investigate genetic causes of metabolome variation, we measured the concentrations of 74 metabolites across 100 segregants from a Saccharomyces cerevisiae cross by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. We found 52 quantitative trait loci for 34 metabolites. These included linkages due to overt changes in metabolic genes, e.g., linking pyrimidine intermediates to the deletion of ura3. They also included linkages not directly related to metabolic enzymes, such as those for five central carbon metabolites to ira2, a Ras/PKA pathway regulator, and for the metabolites, S-adenosyl-methionine and S-adenosyl-homocysteine to slt2, a MAP kinase involved in cell wall integrity. The variant of ira2 that elevates metabolite levels also increases glucose uptake and ethanol secretion. These results highlight specific examples of genetic variability, including in genes without prior known metabolic regulatory function, that impact yeast metabolism.
Author Summary
Many traits, from human height to E. coli growth rate, quantitatively vary across members of a species. Among the most medically and agriculturally important traits are levels of cellular metabolites, such as cholesterol levels in humans or starch in food crops. Metabolic variation in yeast also holds practical importance with some Saccharomyces strains better suited to making ethanol for biofuel and others tailored to making flavorful wine. This metabolic heterogeneity can be used to gain insight into general principles of metabolic regulation which effect metabolite abundance in eukaryotes. To this end, we examined inter-strain differences in metabolism in over 100 closely related S. cerevisiae strains. We identified over 50 genetic loci that control the levels of specific metabolites, including not only loci that encode metabolic enzymes, but also those that encode global cellular regulators. For example, differences in the sequence of ira2, an inhibitor of Ras, lead to differences in central carbon metabolite levels, and polymorphisms in slt2, a poorly characterized MAP kinase, alter levels of sulfur-containing metabolites. These findings provide insights into the mechanisms cells use to control metabolite concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3945093  PMID: 24603560
16.  Predicting metabolic biomarkers of human inborn errors of metabolism 
Early diagnosis of inborn errors of metabolism is commonly performed through biofluid metabolomics, which detects specific metabolic biomarkers whose concentration is altered due to genomic mutations. The identification of new biomarkers is of major importance to biomedical research and is usually performed through data mining of metabolomic data. After the recent publication of the genome-scale network model of human metabolism, we present a novel computational approach for systematically predicting metabolic biomarkers in stochiometric metabolic models. Applying the method to predict biomarkers for disruptions of red-blood cell metabolism demonstrates a marked correlation with altered metabolic concentrations inferred through kinetic model simulations. Applying the method to the genome-scale human model reveals a set of 233 metabolites whose concentration is predicted to be either elevated or reduced as a result of 176 possible dysfunctional enzymes. The method's predictions are shown to significantly correlate with known disease biomarkers and to predict many novel potential biomarkers. Using this method to prioritize metabolite measurement experiments to identify new biomarkers can provide an order of a 10-fold increase in biomarker detection performance.
PMCID: PMC2683725  PMID: 19401675
constraint-based modeling; disease biomarkers; human metabolism; inborn error of metabolism
17.  A Genome-Wide Metabolic QTL Analysis in Europeans Implicates Two Loci Shaped by Recent Positive Selection 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002270.
We have performed a metabolite quantitative trait locus (mQTL) study of the 1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H NMR) metabolome in humans, building on recent targeted knowledge of genetic drivers of metabolic regulation. Urine and plasma samples were collected from two cohorts of individuals of European descent, with one cohort comprised of female twins donating samples longitudinally. Sample metabolite concentrations were quantified by 1H NMR and tested for association with genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Four metabolites' concentrations exhibited significant, replicable association with SNP variation (8.6×10−11
Author Summary
Physiological concentrations of metabolites—small molecules involved in biochemical processes in living systems—can be measured and used to diagnose and predict disease states. A common goal is to detect and clinically exploit statistical differences in metabolite concentrations between diseased and healthy individuals. As a basis for the design and interpretation of case-control studies, it is useful to have a characterization of metabolic diversity amongst healthy individuals, some of which stems from inter-individual genetic variation. When a single genetic locus has a sufficiently strong effect on metabolism, its genomic position can be determined by collecting metabolite concentration data and genome-wide genotype data on a set of individuals and searching for associations between the two data sets—a so-called metabolite quantitative trait locus (mQTL) study. By so tracing mQTLs, we can identify the genetic drivers of metabolism, characterize how the nature or quantity of the corresponding expressed protein(s) feeds forward to influence metabolite levels, and specify disease-predictive models that incorporate mutual dependence amongst genetics, environment, and metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3169529  PMID: 21931564
Interpreting quantitative metabolome data is a difficult task owing to the high connectivity in metabolic networks and inherent interdependency between enzymatic regulation, metabolite levels and fluxes. Here we present a hypothesis-driven algorithm for the integration of such data with metabolic network topology. The algorithm thus enables identification of reporter reactions, which are reactions where there are significant coordinated changes in the level of surrounding metabolites following environmental/genetic perturbations. Applicability of the algorithm is demonstrated by using data from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The algorithm includes preprocessing of a genome-scale yeast model such that the fraction of measured metabolites within the model is enhanced, and thus it is possible to map significant alterations associated with a perturbation even though a small fraction of the complete metabolome is measured. By combining the results with transcriptome data, we further show that it is possible to infer whether the reactions are hierarchically or metabolically regulated. Hereby, the reported approach represents an attempt to map different layers of regulation within metabolic networks through combination of metabolome and transcriptome data.
PMCID: PMC1682015  PMID: 17016516
data integration; genome-scale stoichiometric model; metabolic regulation; quantitative metabolomics; reporter reactions
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5(Suppl 2):S13.
Current Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) are performed in a single trait framework without considering genetic correlations between important disease traits. Hence, the GWAS have limitations in discovering genetic risk factors affecting pleiotropic effects.
This work reports a novel data mining approach to discover patterns of multiple phenotypic associations over 52 anthropometric and biochemical traits in KARE and a new analytical scheme for GWAS of multivariate phenotypes defined by the discovered patterns. This methodology applied to the GWAS for multivariate phenotype highLDLhighTG derived from the predicted patterns of the phenotypic associations. The patterns of the phenotypic associations were informative to draw relations between plasma lipid levels with bone mineral density and a cluster of common traits (Obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance) related to Metabolic Syndrome (MS). A total of 15 SNPs in six genes (PAK7, C20orf103, NRIP1, BCL2, TRPM3, and NAV1) were identified for significant associations with highLDLhighTG. Noteworthy findings were that the significant associations included a mis-sense mutation (PAK7:R335P), a frame shift mutation (C20orf103) and SNPs in splicing sites (TRPM3).
The six genes corresponded to rat and mouse quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that had shown associations with the common traits such as the well characterized MS and even tumor susceptibility. Our findings suggest that the six genes may play important roles in the pleiotropic effects on lipid metabolism and the MS, which increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The use of the multivariate phenotypes can be advantageous in identifying genetic risk factors, accounting for the pleiotropic effects when the multivariate phenotypes have a common etiological pathway.
PMCID: PMC3287479  PMID: 22784570
In many fields of medicine there is a growing interest in characterizing diseases at molecular level with a view to developing an individually tailored therapeutic approach. Metabolomics is a novel area that promises to contribute significantly to the characterization of various disease phenotypes and to the identification of personal metabolic features that can predict response to therapies. Based on analytical platforms such as mass spectrometry or NMR-based spectroscopy, the metabolomic approach enables a comprehensive overview of the metabolites, leading to the characterization of the metabolic fingerprint of a given sample. These metabolic fingerprints can then be used to distinguish between different disease phenotypes and to predict a drug's effectiveness and/or toxicity.
Several studies published in the last few years applied the metabolomic approach in the field of pediatric medicine. Being a highly informative technique that can be used on samples collected non-invasively (e.g. urine or exhaled breath condensate), metabolomics has appeal for the study of pediatric diseases. Here we present and discuss the pediatric clinical studies that have taken the metabolomic approach.
PMCID: PMC2773773  PMID: 19852788
Metabolites  2013;3(1):72-100.
Our knowledge on cyanobacterial molecular biology increased tremendously by the application of the “omics” techniques. Only recently, metabolomics was applied systematically to model cyanobacteria. Metabolomics, the quantitative estimation of ideally the complete set of cellular metabolites, is particularly well suited to mirror cellular metabolism and its flexibility under diverse conditions. Traditionally, small sets of metabolites are quantified in targeted metabolome approaches. The development of separation technologies coupled to mass-spectroscopy- or nuclear-magnetic-resonance-based identification of low molecular mass molecules presently allows the profiling of hundreds of metabolites of diverse chemical nature. Metabolome analysis was applied to characterize changes in the cyanobacterial primary metabolism under diverse environmental conditions or in defined mutants. The resulting lists of metabolites and their steady state concentrations in combination with transcriptomics can be used in system biology approaches. The application of stable isotopes in fluxomics, i.e. the quantitative estimation of carbon and nitrogen fluxes through the biochemical network, has only rarely been applied to cyanobacteria, but particularly this technique will allow the making of kinetic models of cyanobacterial systems. The further application of metabolomics in the concert of other “omics” technologies will not only broaden our knowledge, but will also certainly strengthen the base for the biotechnological application of cyanobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3901253  PMID: 24957891
inorganic carbon; glucose feeding; modeling; mutant; primary metabolism; stable isotope labeling; synechocystis
One of the goals of global metabolomic analysis is to identify metabolic markers that are hidden within a large background of data originating from high-throughput analytical measurements. Metabolite-based clustering is an unsupervised approach for marker identification based on grouping similar concentration profiles of putative metabolites. A major problem of this approach is that in general there is no prior information about an adequate number of clusters.
We present an approach for data mining on metabolite intensity profiles as obtained from mass spectrometry measurements. We propose one-dimensional self-organizing maps for metabolite-based clustering and visualization of marker candidates. In a case study on the wound response of Arabidopsis thaliana, based on metabolite profile intensities from eight different experimental conditions, we show how the clustering and visualization capabilities can be used to identify relevant groups of markers.
Our specialized realization of self-organizing maps is well-suitable to gain insight into complex pattern variation in a large set of metabolite profiles. In comparison to other methods our visualization approach facilitates the identification of interesting groups of metabolites by means of a convenient overview on relevant intensity patterns. In particular, the visualization effectively supports researchers in analyzing many putative clusters when the true number of biologically meaningful groups is unknown.
PMCID: PMC2464586  PMID: 18582365
Pharmacology & therapeutics  2011;133(3):366-391.
Advances in analytical methodologies, principally nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS), during the last decade have made large-scale analysis of the human metabolome a reality. This is leading to the reawakening of the importance of metabolism in human diseases, particularly cancer. The metabolome is the functional readout of the genome, functional genome, and proteome; it is also an integral partner in molecular regulations for homeostasis. The interrogation of the metabolome, or metabolomics, is now being applied to numerous diseases, largely by metabolite profiling for biomarker discovery, but also in pharmacology and therapeutics. Recent advances in stable isotope tracer-based metabolomic approaches enable unambiguous tracking of individual atoms through compartmentalized metabolic networks directly in human subjects, which promises to decipher the complexity of the human metabolome at an unprecedented pace. This knowledge will revolutionize our understanding of complex human diseases, clinical diagnostics, as well as individualized therapeutics and drug response.
In this review, we focus on the use of stable isotope tracers with metabolomics technologies for understanding metabolic network dynamics in both model systems and in clinical applications. Atom-resolved isotope tracing via the two major analytical platforms, NMR and MS, has the power to determine novel metabolic reprogramming in diseases, discover new drug targets, and facilitates ADME studies. We also illustrate new metabolic tracer-based imaging technologies, which enable direct visualization of metabolic processes in vivo. We further outline current practices and future requirements for biochemoinformatics development, which is an integral part of translating stable isotope-resolved metabolomics into clinical reality.
PMCID: PMC3471671  PMID: 22212615
Metabolomics; systems biochemistry; stable isotope tracing; drug discovery; metabolic compartmentation and regulation; pathway reconstruction
Drug metabolism reviews  2007;39(2-3):581-597.
Xenobiotic metabolism, a ubiquitous natural response to foreign compounds, elicits initiating signals for many pathophysiological events. Currently, most widely used techniques for identifying xenobiotic metabolites and metabolic pathways are empirical and largely based on in vitro incubation assays and in vivo radiotracing experiments. Recent work in our lab has shown that LC-MS-based metabolomic techniques are useful tools for xenobiotic metabolism research since multivariate data analysis in metabolomics can significantly rationalize the processes of xenobiotic metabolite identification and metabolic pathway analysis. In this review, the technological elements of LC-MS-based metabolomics for constructing high-quality datasets and conducting comprehensive data analysis are examined. Four novel approaches of using LC-MS-based metabolomic techniques in xenobiotic metabolism research are proposed and illustrated by case studies and proof-of-concept experiments, and the perspective on their application is further discussed.
PMCID: PMC2140249  PMID: 17786640
Metabolomics; Xenobiotic metabolism; Drug metabolism; LC-MS; Multivariate data analysis
Genes & Nutrition  2012;8(1):19-27.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have become a very important tool to address the genetic origin of phenotypic variability, in particular associated with diseases. Nevertheless, these types of studies provide limited information about disease etiology and the molecular mechanisms involved. Recently, the incorporation of metabolomics into the analysis has offered novel opportunities for a better understanding of disease-related metabolic deregulation. The pattern emerging from this work is that gene-driven changes in metabolism are prevalent and that common genetic variations can have a profound impact on the homeostatic concentrations of specific metabolites. A particularly interesting aspect of this work takes into account interactions of environment and lifestyle with the genome and how this interaction translates into changes in the metabolome. For instance, the role of PYROXD2 in trimethylamine metabolism points to an interaction between host and microbiome genomes (host/microbiota). Often, these findings reveal metabolic deregulations, which could eventually be tuned with a nutritional intervention. Here we review the development of gene–metabolism association studies from a single-gene/single-metabolite to a genome-wide/metabolome-wide approach and highlight the conceptual changes associated with this ongoing transition. Moreover, we report some of our recent GWAS results on a cohort of 265 individuals from an ethnically diverse population that validate and refine previous findings on gene–urine metabolism interactions. Specifically, our results confirm the effect of PYROXD2 polymorphisms on trimethylamine metabolism and suggest that a previously reported association of N-acetylated compounds with the ALMS1/NAT8 locus is driven by SNPs in the ALMS1 gene.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12263-012-0313-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3534994  PMID: 23065485
Metabolome wide associations; Genome wide associations; Metabolomics; Nutrition

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