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1.  Pleiotropic Functions for Transcription Factor Zscan10 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104568.
The transcription factor Zscan10 had been attributed a role as a pluripotency factor in embryonic stem cells based on its interaction with Oct4 and Sox2 in in vitro assays. Here we suggest a potential role of Zscan10 in controlling progenitor cell populations in vivo. Mice homozygous for a Zscan10 mutation exhibit reduced weight, mild hypoplasia in the spleen, heart and long bones and phenocopy an eye malformation previously described for Sox2 hypomorphs. Phenotypic abnormalities are supported by the nature of Zscan10 expression in midgestation embryos and adults suggesting a role for Zscan10 in either maintaining progenitor cell subpopulation or impacting on fate choice decisions thereof.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104568
PMCID: PMC4128777  PMID: 25111779
2.  Metabolomics of Ramadan fasting: an opportunity for the controlled study of physiological responses to food intake 
High-throughput screening techniques that analyze the metabolic endpoints of biological processes can identify the contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental factors to the development of common diseases. Studies applying controlled physiological challenges can reveal dysregulation in metabolic responses that may be predictive for or associated with these diseases. However, large-scale epidemiological studies with well controlled physiological challenge conditions, such as extended fasting periods and defined food intake, pose logistic challenges. Culturally and religiously motivated behavioral patterns of life style changes provide a natural setting that can be used to enroll a large number of study volunteers. Here we report a proof of principle study conducted within a Muslim community, showing that a metabolomics study during the Holy Month of Ramadan can provide a unique opportunity to explore the pre-prandial and postprandial response of human metabolism to nutritional challenges. Up to five blood samples were obtained from eleven healthy male volunteers, taken directly before and two hours after consumption of a controlled meal in the evening on days 7 and 26 of Ramadan, and after an over-night fast several weeks after Ramadan. The observed increases in glucose, insulin and lactate levels at the postprandial time point confirm the expected physiological response to food intake. Targeted metabolomics further revealed significant and physiologically plausible responses to food intake by an increase in bile acid and amino acid levels and a decrease in long-chain acyl-carnitine and polyamine levels. A decrease in the concentrations of a number of phospholipids between samples taken on days 7 and 26 of Ramadan shows that the long-term response to extended fasting may differ from the response to short-term fasting. The present study design is scalable to larger populations and may be extended to the study of the metabolic response in defined patient groups such as individuals with type 2 diabetes.
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-12-161
PMCID: PMC4063233  PMID: 24906381
Metabolomics; Nutritional challenging; Ramadan fasting; Study design; Clinical research
3.  Metabolomics approach reveals effects of antihypertensives and lipid-lowering drugs on the human metabolism 
European Journal of Epidemiology  2014;29(5):325-336.
The mechanism of antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs on the human organism is still not fully understood. New insights on the drugs’ action can be provided by a metabolomics-driven approach, which offers a detailed view of the physiological state of an organism. Here, we report a metabolome-wide association study with 295 metabolites in human serum from 1,762 participants of the KORA F4 (Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg) study population. Our intent was to find variations of metabolite concentrations related to the intake of various drug classes and—based on the associations found—to generate new hypotheses about on-target as well as off-target effects of these drugs. In total, we found 41 significant associations for the drug classes investigated: For beta-blockers (11 associations), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (four assoc.), diuretics (seven assoc.), statins (ten assoc.), and fibrates (nine assoc.) the top hits were pyroglutamine, phenylalanylphenylalanine, pseudouridine, 1-arachidonoylglycerophosphocholine, and 2-hydroxyisobutyrate, respectively. For beta-blockers we observed significant associations with metabolite concentrations that are indicative of drug side-effects, such as increased serotonin and decreased free fatty acid levels. Intake of ACE inhibitors and statins associated with metabolites that provide insight into the action of the drug itself on its target, such as an association of ACE inhibitors with des-Arg(9)-bradykinin and aspartylphenylalanine, a substrate and a product of the drug-inhibited ACE. The intake of statins which reduce blood cholesterol levels, resulted in changes in the concentration of metabolites of the biosynthesis as well as of the degradation of cholesterol. Fibrates showed the strongest association with 2-hydroxyisobutyrate which might be a breakdown product of fenofibrate and, thus, a possible marker for the degradation of this drug in the human organism. The analysis of diuretics showed a heterogeneous picture that is difficult to interpret. Taken together, our results provide a basis for a deeper functional understanding of the action and side-effects of antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs in the general population.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10654-014-9910-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s10654-014-9910-7
PMCID: PMC4050296  PMID: 24816436
Beta-blockers; Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors; Diuretics; Statins; Fibrates; Metabolomics
4.  Integration of steroid research: Perspectives on environment factors, homeostasis in health, and disease treatment 
doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.04.011
PMCID: PMC4008313  PMID: 21558003
Endocrine disruptors; Steroids; Breast cancer; Prostate cancer; Obesity; Diabetes; Mice model; Chemistry of synthesis
5.  Early Metabolic Markers of the Development of Dysglycemia and Type 2 Diabetes and Their Physiological Significance 
Diabetes  2013;62(5):1730-1737.
Metabolomic screening of fasting plasma from nondiabetic subjects identified α-hydroxybutyrate (α-HB) and linoleoyl-glycerophosphocholine (L-GPC) as joint markers of insulin resistance (IR) and glucose intolerance. To test the predictivity of α-HB and L-GPC for incident dysglycemia, α-HB and L-GPC measurements were obtained in two observational cohorts, comprising 1,261 nondiabetic participants from the Relationship between Insulin Sensitivity and Cardiovascular Disease (RISC) study and 2,580 from the Botnia Prospective Study, with 3-year and 9.5-year follow-up data, respectively. In both cohorts, α-HB was a positive correlate and L-GPC a negative correlate of insulin sensitivity, with α-HB reciprocally related to indices of β-cell function derived from the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). In follow-up, α-HB was a positive predictor (adjusted odds ratios 1.25 [95% CI 1.00–1.60] and 1.26 [1.07–1.48], respectively, for each standard deviation of predictor), and L-GPC was a negative predictor (0.64 [0.48–0.85] and 0.67 [0.54–0.84]) of dysglycemia (RISC) or type 2 diabetes (Botnia), independent of familial diabetes, sex, age, BMI, and fasting glucose. Corresponding areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve were 0.791 (RISC) and 0.783 (Botnia), similar in accuracy when substituting α-HB and L-GPC with 2-h OGTT glucose concentrations. When their activity was examined, α-HB inhibited and L-GPC stimulated glucose-induced insulin release in INS-1e cells. α-HB and L-GPC are independent predictors of worsening glucose tolerance, physiologically consistent with a joint signature of IR and β-cell dysfunction.
doi:10.2337/db12-0707
PMCID: PMC3636608  PMID: 23160532
6.  Metabolic Signatures of Cultured Human Adipocytes from Metabolically Healthy versus Unhealthy Obese Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93148.
Background and Aims
Among obese subjects, metabolically healthy and unhealthy obesity (MHO/MUHO) can be differentiated: the latter is characterized by whole-body insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, and subclinical inflammation. Aim of this study was, to identify adipocyte-specific metabolic signatures and functional biomarkers for MHO versus MUHO.
Methods
10 insulin-resistant (IR) vs. 10 insulin-sensitive (IS) non-diabetic morbidly obese (BMI >40 kg/m2) Caucasians were matched for gender, age, BMI, and percentage of body fat. From subcutaneous fat biopsies, primary preadipocytes were isolated and differentiated to adipocytes in vitro. About 280 metabolites were investigated by a targeted metabolomic approach intracellularly, extracellularly, and in plasma.
Results/Interpretation
Among others, aspartate was reduced intracellularly to one third (p = 0.0039) in IR adipocytes, pointing to a relative depletion of citric acid cycle metabolites or reduced aspartate uptake in MUHO. Other amino acids, already known to correlate with diabetes and/or obesity, were identified to differ between MUHO's and MHO's adipocytes, namely glutamine, histidine, and spermidine. Most species of phosphatidylcholines (PCs) were lower in MUHO's extracellular milieu, though simultaneously elevated intracellularly, e.g., PC aa C32∶3, pointing to increased PC synthesis and/or reduced PC release. Furthermore, altered arachidonic acid (AA) metabolism was found: 15(S)-HETE (15-hydroxy-eicosatetraenoic acid; 0 vs. 120pM; p = 0.0014), AA (1.5-fold; p = 0.0055) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22∶6; 2-fold; p = 0.0033) were higher in MUHO. This emphasizes a direct contribution of adipocytes to local adipose tissue inflammation. Elevated DHA, as an inhibitor of prostaglandin synthesis, might be a hint for counter-regulatory mechanisms in MUHO.
Conclusion/Interpretation
We identified adipocyte-inherent metabolic alterations discriminating between MHO and MUHO.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093148
PMCID: PMC3973696  PMID: 24695116
7.  Interrogating causal pathways linking genetic variants, small molecule metabolites, and circulating lipids 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(3):25.
Background
Emerging technologies based on mass spectrometry or nuclear magnetic resonance enable the monitoring of hundreds of small metabolites from tissues or body fluids. Profiling of metabolites can help elucidate causal pathways linking established genetic variants to known disease risk factors such as blood lipid traits.
Methods
We applied statistical methodology to dissect causal relationships between single nucleotide polymorphisms, metabolite concentrations, and serum lipid traits, focusing on 95 genetic loci reproducibly associated with the four main serum lipids (total-, low-density lipoprotein-, and high-density lipoprotein- cholesterol and triglycerides). The dataset used included 2,973 individuals from two independent population-based cohorts with data for 151 small molecule metabolites and four main serum lipids. Three statistical approaches, namely conditional analysis, Mendelian randomization, and structural equation modeling, were compared to investigate causal relationship at sets of a single nucleotide polymorphism, a metabolite, and a lipid trait associated with one another.
Results
A subset of three lipid-associated loci (FADS1, GCKR, and LPA) have a statistically significant association with at least one main lipid and one metabolite concentration in our data, defining a total of 38 cross-associated sets of a single nucleotide polymorphism, a metabolite and a lipid trait. Structural equation modeling provided sufficient discrimination to indicate that the association of a single nucleotide polymorphism with a lipid trait was mediated through a metabolite at 15 of the 38 sets, and involving variants at the FADS1 and GCKR loci.
Conclusions
These data provide a framework for evaluating the causal role of components of the metabolome (or other intermediate factors) in mediating the association between established genetic variants and diseases or traits.
doi:10.1186/gm542
PMCID: PMC4062056  PMID: 24678845
8.  Long term conservation of human metabolic phenotypes and link to heritability 
Metabolomics  2014;10(5):1005-1017.
Changes in an individual’s human metabolic phenotype (metabotype) over time can be indicative of disorder-related modifications. Studies covering several months to a few years have shown that metabolic profiles are often specific for an individual. This “metabolic individuality” and detected changes may contribute to personalized approaches in human health care. However, it is not clear whether such individual metabotypes persist over longer time periods. Here we investigate the conservation of metabotypes characterized by 212 different metabolites of 818 participants from the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg; Germany population, taken within a 7-year time interval. For replication, we used paired samples from 83 non-related individuals from the TwinsUK study. Results indicated that over 40 % of all study participants could be uniquely identified after 7 years based on their metabolic profiles alone. Moreover, 95 % of the study participants showed a high degree of metabotype conservation (>70 %) whereas the remaining 5 % displayed major changes in their metabolic profiles over time. These latter individuals were likely to have undergone important biochemical changes between the two time points. We further show that metabolite conservation was positively associated with heritability (rank correlation 0.74), although there were some notable exceptions. Our results suggest that monitoring changes in metabotypes over several years can trace changes in health status and may provide indications for disease onset. Moreover, our study findings provide a general reference for metabotype conservation over longer time periods that can be used in biomarker discovery studies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11306-014-0629-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11306-014-0629-y
PMCID: PMC4145193  PMID: 25177233
Metabolomics; Longitudinal study; Heritability; Population study
9.  Targeted Metabolomics Identifies Reliable and Stable Metabolites in Human Serum and Plasma Samples 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89728.
Background
Information regarding the variability of metabolite levels over time in an individual is required to estimate the reproducibility of metabolite measurements. In intervention studies, it is critical to appropriately judge changes that are elicited by any kind of intervention. The pre-analytic phase (collection, transport and sample processing) is a particularly important component of data quality in multi-center studies.
Methods
Reliability of metabolites (within-and between-person variance, intraclass correlation coefficient) and stability (shipment simulation at different temperatures, use of gel-barrier collection tubes, freeze-thaw cycles) were analyzed in fasting serum and plasma samples of 22 healthy human subjects using a targeted LC-MS approach.
Results
Reliability of metabolite measurements was higher in serum compared to plasma samples and was good in most saturated short-and medium-chain acylcarnitines, amino acids, biogenic amines, glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids and hexose. The majority of metabolites were stable for 24 h on cool packs and at room temperature in non-centrifuged tubes. Plasma and serum metabolite stability showed good coherence. Serum metabolite concentrations were mostly unaffected by tube type and one or two freeze-thaw cycles.
Conclusion
A single time point measurement is assumed to be sufficient for a targeted metabolomics analysis of most metabolites. For shipment, samples should ideally be separated and frozen immediately after collection, as some amino acids and biogenic amines become unstable within 3 h on cool packs. Serum gel-barrier tubes can be used safely for this process as they have no effect on concentration in most metabolites. Shipment of non-centrifuged samples on cool packs is a cost-efficient alternative for most metabolites.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089728
PMCID: PMC3933650  PMID: 24586991
10.  Identification of Serum Metabolites Associated With Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Using a Targeted Metabolomic Approach 
Diabetes  2013;62(2):639-648.
Metabolomic discovery of biomarkers of type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk may reveal etiological pathways and help to identify individuals at risk for disease. We prospectively investigated the association between serum metabolites measured by targeted metabolomics and risk of T2D in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam (27,548 adults) among all incident cases of T2D (n = 800, mean follow-up 7 years) and a randomly drawn subcohort (n = 2,282). Flow injection analysis tandem mass spectrometry was used to quantify 163 metabolites, including acylcarnitines, amino acids, hexose, and phospholipids, in baseline serum samples. Serum hexose; phenylalanine; and diacyl-phosphatidylcholines C32:1, C36:1, C38:3, and C40:5 were independently associated with increased risk of T2D and serum glycine; sphingomyelin C16:1; acyl-alkyl-phosphatidylcholines C34:3, C40:6, C42:5, C44:4, and C44:5; and lysophosphatidylcholine C18:2 with decreased risk. Variance of the metabolites was largely explained by two metabolite factors with opposing risk associations (factor 1 relative risk in extreme quintiles 0.31 [95% CI 0.21–0.44], factor 2 3.82 [2.64–5.52]). The metabolites significantly improved T2D prediction compared with established risk factors. They were further linked to insulin sensitivity and secretion in the Tübingen Family study and were partly replicated in the independent KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg) cohort. The data indicate that metabolic alterations, including sugar metabolites, amino acids, and choline-containing phospholipids, are associated early on with a higher risk of T2D.
doi:10.2337/db12-0495
PMCID: PMC3554384  PMID: 23043162
11.  Automated workflow-based exploitation of pathway databases provides new insights into genetic associations of metabolite profiles 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:865.
Background
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.
Results
Re-analysis of the published GWAS dataset from Illig et al. (Nature Genetics, 2010) using a pathway-based workflow (http://www.myexperiment.org/packs/319.html), 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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-865
PMCID: PMC3879060  PMID: 24320595
Genome-wide association; Metabolite; Genotype-phenotype prioritization; Bioinformatics; Pathway databases
12.  Human metabolic individuality in biomedical and pharmaceutical research 
Nature  2011;477(7362):10.1038/nature10354.
SUMMARY
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.
doi:10.1038/nature10354
PMCID: PMC3832838  PMID: 21886157
13.  Plasma Metabolomics Reveal Alterations of Sphingo- and Glycerophospholipid Levels in Non-Diabetic Carriers of the Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 Polymorphism rs7903146 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78430.
Aims/Hypothesis
Polymorphisms in the transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) gene have been shown to display a powerful association with type 2 diabetes. The aim of the present study was to evaluate metabolic alterations in carriers of a common TCF7L2 risk variant.
Methods
Seventeen non-diabetic subjects carrying the T risk allele at the rs7903146 TCF7L2 locus and 24 subjects carrying no risk allele were submitted to intravenous glucose tolerance test and euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp. Plasma samples were analysed for concentrations of 163 metabolites through targeted mass spectrometry.
Results
TCF7L2 risk allele carriers had a reduced first-phase insulin response and normal insulin sensitivity. Under fasting conditions, carriers of TCF7L2 rs7903146 exhibited a non-significant increase of plasma sphingomyelins (SMs), phosphatidylcholines (PCs) and lysophosphatidylcholines (lysoPCs) species. A significant genotype effect was detected in response to challenge tests in 6 SMs (C16:0, C16:1, C18:0, C18:1, C24:0, C24:1), 5 hydroxy-SMs (C14:1, C16:1, C22:1, C22:2, C24:1), 4 lysoPCs (C14:0, C16:0, C16:1, C17:0), 3 diacyl-PCs (C28:1, C36:6, C40:4) and 4 long-chain acyl-alkyl-PCs (C40:2, C40:5, C44:5, C44:6).
Discussion
Plasma metabolomic profiling identified alterations of phospholipid metabolism in response to challenge tests in subjects with TCF7L2 rs7903146 genotype. This may reflect a genotype-mediated link to early metabolic abnormalities prior to the development of disturbed glucose tolerance.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078430
PMCID: PMC3813438  PMID: 24205231
14.  Changes in metabolite profiles caused by genetically determined obesity in mice 
Metabolomics  2013;10(3):461-472.
The Berlin Fat Mouse Inbred (BFMI) line harbors a major recessive gene defect on chromosome 3 (jobes1) leading to juvenile obesity and metabolic syndrome. The present study aimed at the identification of metabolites that might be linked to recessively acting genes in the obesity locus. Firstly, serum metabolites were analyzed between obese BFMI and lean B6 and BFMI × B6 F1 mice to identify metabolites that are different. In a second step, a metabolite–protein network analysis was performed linking metabolites typical for BFMI mice with genes of the jobes1 region. The levels of 22 diacyl-phosphatidylcholines (PC aa), two lyso-PC and three carnitines were found to be significantly lower in obese mice compared with lean mice, while serine, glycine, arginine and hydroxysphingomyelin were higher for the same comparison. The network analysis identified PC aa C42:1 as functionally linked with the genes Ccna2 and Trpc3 via the enzymes choline kinase alpha and phospholipase A2 group 1B (PLA2G1B), respectively. Gene expression analysis revealed elevated Ccna2 expression in adipose tissue of BFMI mice. Furthermore, unique mutations were found in the Ccna2 promoter of BFMI mice which are located in binding sites for transcription factors or micro RNAs and could cause differential Ccna2 mRNA levels between BFMI and B6 mice. Increased expression of Ccna2 was consistent with higher mitotic activity of adipose tissue in BFMI mice. Therefore, we suggest a higher demand for PC necessary for adipose tissue growth and remodeling. This study highlights the relationship between metabolite profiles and the underlying genetics of obesity in the BFMI line.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11306-013-0590-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11306-013-0590-1
PMCID: PMC3984667  PMID: 24772056
Adiposity; Metabolism; Phosphatidylcholine
15.  Diagnosing Fatty Liver Disease: A Comparative Evaluation of Metabolic Markers, Phenotypes, Genotypes and Established Biomarkers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76813.
Background
To date, liver biopsy is the only means of reliable diagnosis for fatty liver disease (FLD). Owing to the inevitable biopsy-associated health risks, however, the development of valid noninvasive diagnostic tools for FLD is well warranted.
Aim
We evaluated a particular metabolic profile with regard to its ability to diagnose FLD and compared its performance to that of established phenotypes, conventional biomarkers and disease-associated genotypes.
Methods
The study population comprised 115 patients with ultrasound-diagnosed FLD and 115 sex- and age-matched controls for whom the serum concentration was measured of 138 different metabolites, including acylcarnitines, amino acids, biogenic amines, hexose, phosphatidylcholines (PCs), lyso-PCs and sphingomyelins. Established phenotypes, biomarkers, disease-associated genotypes and metabolite data were included in diagnostic models for FLD using logistic regression and partial least-squares discriminant analysis. The discriminative power of the ensuing models was compared with respect to area under curve (AUC), integrated discrimination improvement (IDI) and by way of cross-validation (CV).
Results
Use of metabolic markers for predicting FLD showed the best performance among all considered types of markers, yielding an AUC of 0.8993. Additional information on phenotypes, conventional biomarkers or genotypes did not significantly improve this performance. Phospholipids and branched-chain amino acids were most informative for predicting FLD.
Conclusion
We show that the inclusion of metabolite data may substantially increase the power to diagnose FLD over that of models based solely upon phenotypes and conventional biomarkers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076813
PMCID: PMC3793954  PMID: 24130792
16.  Retinal proteome alterations in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes 
Diabetologia  2013;57(1):192-203.
Aims/hypothesis
Diabetic retinopathy is a major complication of type 2 diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in adults of working age. Neuronal defects are known to occur early in disease, but the source of this dysfunction is unknown. The aim of this study was to examine differences in the retinal membrane proteome among non-diabetic mice and mouse models of diabetes either with or without metformin treatment.
Methods
Alterations in the retinal membrane proteome of 10-week-old diabetic db/db mice, diabetic db/db mice orally treated with the anti-hyperglycaemic metformin, and congenic wild-type littermates were examined using label-free mass spectrometry. Pathway enrichment analysis was completed with Genomatix and Ingenuity. Alterations in Slc17a7 mRNA and vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGLUT1) protein expression were evaluated using real-time quantitative PCR and immunofluorescence.
Results
A total of 98 proteins were significantly differentially abundant between db/db and wild-type animals. Pathway enrichment analysis indicated decreases in levels of proteins related to synaptic transmission and cell signalling. Metformin treatment produced 63 differentially abundant proteins compared with untreated db/db mice, of which only 43 proteins were found to occur in both datasets, suggesting that treatment only partially normalises the alterations induced by diabetes. VGLUT1, which is responsible for loading glutamate into synaptic vesicles, was found to be differentially abundant in db/db mice and was not normalised by metformin. The decrease in Slc17a7/VGLUT1 was confirmed by transcriptomic and immunocytochemical analysis.
Conclusions/interpretation
These findings expand the knowledge of the protein changes in diabetic retinopathy and suggest that membrane-associated signalling proteins are susceptible to changes that are partially ameliorated by treatment.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-013-3070-2) contains peer-reviewed but unedited supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
doi:10.1007/s00125-013-3070-2
PMCID: PMC3855476  PMID: 24078137
Complex I; Diabetes; Label-free mass spectrometry; Membrane; Metformin; Proteome; Retinopathy; VGLUT1
17.  A genomewide perspective of genetic variation in human metabolism 
Nature genetics  2009;42(2):137-141.
Serum metabolite concentrations provide a direct readout of biological processes in the human body, and are associated with disorders such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Here we present a genome-wide association study with 163 metabolic traits using 1809 participants from the KORA population, followed up in the TwinsUK cohort with 422 participants. In eight out of nine replicated loci (FADS1, ELOVL2, ACADS, ACADM, ACADL, SPTLC3, ETFDH, SLC16A9) the genetic variant is located in or near enzyme or solute carrier coding genes, where the associating metabolic traits match the proteins’ function. Many of these loci are located in rate limiting steps of important enzymatic reactions. Use of metabolite concentration ratios as proxies for enzymatic reaction rates reduces the variance and yields robust statistical associations with p-values between 3×10−24 and 6.5×10−179. These loci explained 5.6% to 36.3% of the observed variance. For several loci, associations with clinically relevant parameters have previously been reported.
doi:10.1038/ng.507
PMCID: PMC3773904  PMID: 20037589
18.  Epigenetics meets metabolomics: an epigenome-wide association study with blood serum metabolic traits 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(2):534-545.
Previously, we reported strong influences of genetic variants on metabolic phenotypes, some of them with clinical relevance. Here, we hypothesize that DNA methylation may have an important and potentially independent effect on human metabolism. To test this hypothesis, we conducted what is to the best of our knowledge the first epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) between DNA methylation and metabolic traits (metabotypes) in human blood. We assess 649 blood metabolic traits from 1814 participants of the Kooperative Gesundheitsforschung in der Region Augsburg (KORA) population study for association with methylation of 457 004 CpG sites, determined on the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip platform. Using the EWAS approach, we identified two types of methylome–metabotype associations. One type is driven by an underlying genetic effect; the other type is independent of genetic variation and potentially driven by common environmental and life-style-dependent factors. We report eight CpG loci at genome-wide significance that have a genetic variant as confounder (P = 3.9 × 10−20 to 2.0 × 10−108, r2 = 0.036 to 0.221). Seven loci display CpG site-specific associations to metabotypes, but do not exhibit any underlying genetic signals (P = 9.2 × 10−14 to 2.7 × 10−27, r2 = 0.008 to 0.107). We further identify several groups of CpG loci that associate with a same metabotype, such as 4-vinylphenol sulfate and 4-androsten-3-beta,17-beta-diol disulfate. In these cases, the association between CpG-methylation and metabotype is likely the result of a common external environmental factor, including smoking. Our study shows that analysis of EWAS with large numbers of metabolic traits in large population cohorts are, in principle, feasible. Taken together, our data suggest that DNA methylation plays an important role in regulating human metabolism.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt430
PMCID: PMC3869358  PMID: 24014485
19.  Changing Metabolic Signatures of Amino Acids and Lipids During the Prediabetic Period in a Pig Model With Impaired Incretin Function and Reduced β-Cell Mass 
Diabetes  2012;61(8):2166-2175.
Diabetes is generally diagnosed too late. Therefore, biomarkers indicating early stages of β-cell dysfunction and mass reduction would facilitate timely counteraction. Transgenic pigs expressing a dominant-negative glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide receptor (GIPRdn) reveal progressive deterioration of glucose control and reduction of β-cell mass, providing a unique opportunity to study metabolic changes during the prediabetic period. Plasma samples from intravenous glucose tolerance tests of 2.5- and 5-month-old GIPRdn transgenic and control animals were analyzed for 163 metabolites by targeted mass spectrometry. Analysis of variance revealed that 26 of 163 parameters were influenced by the interaction Genotype × Age (P ≤ 0.0001) and thus are potential markers for progression within the prediabetic state. Among them, the concentrations of seven amino acids (Phe, Orn, Val, xLeu, His, Arg, and Tyr) were increased in 2.5-month-old but decreased in 5-month-old GIPRdn transgenic pigs versus controls. Furthermore, specific sphingomyelins, diacylglycerols, and ether phospholipids were decreased in plasma of 5-month-old GIPRdn transgenic pigs. Alterations in plasma metabolite concentrations were associated with liver transcriptome changes in relevant pathways. The concentrations of a number of plasma amino acids and lipids correlated significantly with β-cell mass of 5-month-old pigs. These metabolites represent candidate biomarkers of early phases of β-cell dysfunction and mass reduction.
doi:10.2337/db11-1133
PMCID: PMC3402307  PMID: 22492530
20.  Rapamycin extends murine lifespan but has limited effects on aging 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(8):3272-3291.
Aging is a major risk factor for a large number of disorders and functional impairments. Therapeutic targeting of the aging process may therefore represent an innovative strategy in the quest for novel and broadly effective treatments against age-related diseases. The recent report of lifespan extension in mice treated with the FDA-approved mTOR inhibitor rapamycin represented the first demonstration of pharmacological extension of maximal lifespan in mammals. Longevity effects of rapamycin may, however, be due to rapamycin’s effects on specific life-limiting pathologies, such as cancers, and it remains unclear if this compound actually slows the rate of aging in mammals. Here, we present results from a comprehensive, large-scale assessment of a wide range of structural and functional aging phenotypes, which we performed to determine whether rapamycin slows the rate of aging in male C57BL/6J mice. While rapamycin did extend lifespan, it ameliorated few studied aging phenotypes. A subset of aging traits appeared to be rescued by rapamycin. Rapamycin, however, had similar effects on many of these traits in young animals, indicating that these effects were not due to a modulation of aging, but rather related to aging-independent drug effects. Therefore, our data largely dissociate rapamycin’s longevity effects from effects on aging itself.
doi:10.1172/JCI67674
PMCID: PMC3726163  PMID: 23863708
21.  Metabolite profiling reveals new insights into the regulation of serum urate in humans 
Metabolomics  2013;10(1):141-151.
Serum urate, the final breakdown product of purine metabolism, is causally involved in the pathogenesis of gout, and implicated in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Serum urate levels highly differ between men and women; however the underlying biological processes in its regulation are still not completely understood and are assumed to result from a complex interplay between genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. In order to describe the metabolic vicinity of serum urate, we analyzed 355 metabolites in 1,764 individuals of the population-based KORA F4 study and constructed a metabolite network around serum urate using Gaussian Graphical Modeling in a hypothesis-free approach. We subsequently investigated the effect of sex and urate lowering medication on all 38 metabolites assigned to the network. Within the resulting network three main clusters could be detected around urate, including the well-known pathway of purine metabolism, as well as several dipeptides, a group of essential amino acids, and a group of steroids. Of the 38 assigned metabolites, 25 showed strong differences between sexes. Association with uricostatic medication intake was not only confined to purine metabolism but seen for seven metabolites within the network. Our findings highlight pathways that are important in the regulation of serum urate and suggest that dipeptides, amino acids, and steroid hormones are playing a role in its regulation. The findings might have an impact on the development of specific targets in the treatment and prevention of hyperuricemia.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11306-013-0565-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11306-013-0565-2
PMCID: PMC3890072  PMID: 24482632
Gaussian Graphical Modeling; Metabolite network; Pathway reconstruction; Allopurinol; Uric acid; Purine metabolism
22.  Associations between thyroid hormones and serum metabolite profiles in an euthyroid population 
Metabolomics  2013;10(1):152-164.
The aim was to characterise associations between circulating thyroid hormones—free thyroxine (FT4) and thyrotropin (TSH)—and the metabolite profiles in serum samples from participants of the German population-based KORA F4 study. Analyses were based on the metabolite profile of 1463 euthyroid subjects. In serum samples, obtained after overnight fasting (≥8), 151 different metabolites were quantified in a targeted approach including amino acids, acylcarnitines (ACs), and phosphatidylcholines (PCs). Associations between metabolites and thyroid hormone concentrations were analysed using adjusted linear regression models. To draw conclusions on thyroid hormone related pathways, intra-class metabolite ratios were additionally explored. We discovered 154 significant associations (Bonferroni p < 1.75 × 10−04) between FT4 and various metabolites and metabolite ratios belonging to AC and PC groups. Significant associations with TSH were lacking. High FT4 levels were associated with increased concentrations of many ACs and various sums of ACs of different chain length, and the ratio of C2 by C0. The inverse associations observed between FT4 and many serum PCs reflected the general decrease in PC concentrations. Similar results were found in subgroup analyses, e.g., in weight-stable subjects or in obese subjects. Further, results were independent of different parameters for liver or kidney function, or inflammation, which supports the notion of an independent FT4 effect. In fasting euthyroid adults, higher serum FT4 levels are associated with increased serum AC concentrations and an increased ratio of C2 by C0 which is indicative of an overall enhanced fatty acyl mitochondrial transport and β-oxidation of fatty acids.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11306-013-0563-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s11306-013-0563-4
PMCID: PMC4042025  PMID: 24955082
Targeted metabolomics; Serum metabolites; Free thyroxine; Thyrotropin; Thyroid hormones; Epidemiology
23.  Tobacco Smoking Leads to Extensive Genome-Wide Changes in DNA Methylation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63812.
Environmental factors such as tobacco smoking may have long-lasting effects on DNA methylation patterns, which might lead to changes in gene expression and in a broader context to the development or progression of various diseases. We conducted an epigenome-wide association study (EWAs) comparing current, former and never smokers from 1793 participants of the population-based KORA F4 panel, with replication in 479 participants from the KORA F3 panel, carried out by the 450K BeadChip with genomic DNA obtained from whole blood. We observed wide-spread differences in the degree of site-specific methylation (with p-values ranging from 9.31E-08 to 2.54E-182) as a function of tobacco smoking in each of the 22 autosomes, with the percent of variance explained by smoking ranging from 1.31 to 41.02. Depending on cessation time and pack-years, methylation levels in former smokers were found to be close to the ones seen in never smokers. In addition, methylation-specific protein binding patterns were observed for cg05575921 within AHRR, which had the highest level of detectable changes in DNA methylation associated with tobacco smoking (–24.40% methylation; p = 2.54E-182), suggesting a regulatory role for gene expression. The results of our study confirm the broad effect of tobacco smoking on the human organism, but also show that quitting tobacco smoking presumably allows regaining the DNA methylation state of never smokers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063812
PMCID: PMC3656907  PMID: 23691101
24.  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.
doi:10.1186/gm333
PMCID: PMC3446262  PMID: 22546499
complex disease; genetics; metabolomics; metabolic traits; pathway inference
25.  Effects of smoking and smoking cessation on human serum metabolite profile: results from the KORA cohort study 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:60.
Background
Metabolomics helps to identify links between environmental exposures and intermediate biomarkers of disturbed pathways. We previously reported variations in phosphatidylcholines in male smokers compared with non-smokers in a cross-sectional pilot study with a small sample size, but knowledge of the reversibility of smoking effects on metabolite profiles is limited. Here, we extend our metabolomics study with a large prospective study including female smokers and quitters.
Methods
Using targeted metabolomics approach, we quantified 140 metabolite concentrations for 1,241 fasting serum samples in the population-based Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA) human cohort at two time points: baseline survey conducted between 1999 and 2001 and follow-up after seven years. Metabolite profiles were compared among groups of current smokers, former smokers and never smokers, and were further assessed for their reversibility after smoking cessation. Changes in metabolite concentrations from baseline to the follow-up were investigated in a longitudinal analysis comparing current smokers, never smokers and smoking quitters, who were current smokers at baseline but former smokers by the time of follow-up. In addition, we constructed protein-metabolite networks with smoking-related genes and metabolites.
Results
We identified 21 smoking-related metabolites in the baseline investigation (18 in men and six in women, with three overlaps) enriched in amino acid and lipid pathways, which were significantly different between current smokers and never smokers. Moreover, 19 out of the 21 metabolites were found to be reversible in former smokers. In the follow-up study, 13 reversible metabolites in men were measured, of which 10 were confirmed to be reversible in male quitters. Protein-metabolite networks are proposed to explain the consistent reversibility of smoking effects on metabolites.
Conclusions
We showed that smoking-related changes in human serum metabolites are reversible after smoking cessation, consistent with the known cardiovascular risk reduction. The metabolites identified may serve as potential biomarkers to evaluate the status of smoking cessation and characterize smoking-related diseases.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-60
PMCID: PMC3653729  PMID: 23497222
metabolic network; metabolomics; molecular epidemiology; smoking; smoking cessation

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