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1.  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
2.  Mining the Unknown: A Systems Approach to Metabolite Identification Combining Genetic and Metabolic Information 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(10):e1003005.
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) with metabolomics data linked genetic variation in the human genome to differences in individual metabolite levels. A strong relevance of this metabolic individuality for biomedical and pharmaceutical research has been reported. However, a considerable amount of the molecules currently quantified by modern metabolomics techniques are chemically unidentified. The identification of these “unknown metabolites” is still a demanding and intricate task, limiting their usability as functional markers of metabolic processes. As a consequence, previous GWAS largely ignored unknown metabolites as metabolic traits for the analysis. Here we present a systems-level approach that combines genome-wide association analysis and Gaussian graphical modeling with metabolomics to predict the identity of the unknown metabolites. We apply our method to original data of 517 metabolic traits, of which 225 are unknowns, and genotyping information on 655,658 genetic variants, measured in 1,768 human blood samples. We report previously undescribed genotype–metabotype associations for six distinct gene loci (SLC22A2, COMT, CYP3A5, CYP2C18, GBA3, UGT3A1) and one locus not related to any known gene (rs12413935). Overlaying the inferred genetic associations, metabolic networks, and knowledge-based pathway information, we derive testable hypotheses on the biochemical identities of 106 unknown metabolites. As a proof of principle, we experimentally confirm nine concrete predictions. We demonstrate the benefit of our method for the functional interpretation of previous metabolomics biomarker studies on liver detoxification, hypertension, and insulin resistance. Our approach is generic in nature and can be directly transferred to metabolomics data from different experimental platforms.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies on metabolomics data have demonstrated that genetic variation in metabolic enzymes and transporters leads to concentration changes in the respective metabolite levels. The conventional goal of these studies is the detection of novel interactions between the genome and the metabolic system, providing valuable insights for both basic research as well as clinical applications. In this study, we borrow the metabolomics GWAS concept for a novel, entirely different purpose. Metabolite measurements frequently produce signals where a certain substance can be reliably detected in the sample, but it has not yet been elucidated which specific metabolite this signal actually represents. The concept is comparable to a fingerprint: each one is uniquely identifiable, but as long as it is not registered in a database one cannot tell to whom this fingerprint belongs. Obviously, this issue tremendously reduces the usability of a metabolomics analyses. The genetic associations of such an “unknown,” however, give us concrete evidence of the metabolic pathway this substance is most probably involved in. Moreover, we complement the approach with a specific measure of correlation between metabolites, providing further evidence of the metabolic processes of the unknown. For a number of cases, this even allows for a concrete identity prediction, which we then experimentally validate in the lab.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003005
PMCID: PMC3475673  PMID: 23093944
3.  Organization of GC/MS and LC/MS metabolomics data into chemical libraries 
Background
Metabolomics experiments involve generating and comparing small molecule (metabolite) profiles from complex mixture samples to identify those metabolites that are modulated in altered states (e.g., disease, drug treatment, toxin exposure). One non-targeted metabolomics approach attempts to identify and interrogate all small molecules in a sample using GC or LC separation followed by MS or MSn detection. Analysis of the resulting large, multifaceted data sets to rapidly and accurately identify the metabolites is a challenging task that relies on the availability of chemical libraries of metabolite spectral signatures. A method for analyzing spectrometry data to identify and Quantify Individual Components in a Sample, (QUICS), enables generation of chemical library entries from known standards and, importantly, from unknown metabolites present in experimental samples but without a corresponding library entry. This method accounts for all ions in a sample spectrum, performs library matches, and allows review of the data to quality check library entries. The QUICS method identifies ions related to any given metabolite by correlating ion data across the complete set of experimental samples, thus revealing subtle spectral trends that may not be evident when viewing individual samples and are likely to be indicative of the presence of one or more otherwise obscured metabolites.
Results
LC-MS/MS or GC-MS data from 33 liver samples were analyzed simultaneously which exploited the inherent biological diversity of the samples and the largely non-covariant chemical nature of the metabolites when viewed over multiple samples. Ions were partitioned by both retention time (RT) and covariance which grouped ions from a single common underlying metabolite. This approach benefitted from using mass, time and intensity data in aggregate over the entire sample set to reject outliers and noise thereby producing higher quality chemical identities. The aggregated data was matched to reference chemical libraries to aid in identifying the ion set as a known metabolite or as a new unknown biochemical to be added to the library.
Conclusion
The QUICS methodology enabled rapid, in-depth evaluation of all possible metabolites (known and unknown) within a set of samples to identify the metabolites and, for those that did not have an entry in the reference library, to create a library entry to identify that metabolite in future studies.
doi:10.1186/1758-2946-2-9
PMCID: PMC2984397  PMID: 20955607

Results 1-3 (3)