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Profound perturbation of the human metabolome by obesity

By Elizabeth T. Cirulli, Lining Guo, Christine Leon Swisher, Naisha Shah, Lei Huang, Lori A. Napier, Ewen F. Kirkness, Tim D Spector, C. Thomas Caskey, Bernard Thorens, J. Craig Venter, Amalio Telenti

Posted 09 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/298224 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.09.022)

Obesity is a heterogeneous phenotype that is crudely measured by body mass index (BMI). More precise phenotyping and categorization of risk in large numbers of people with obesity is needed to advance clinical care and drug development. Here, we used non-targeted metabolome analysis and whole genome sequencing to identify metabolic and genetic signatures of obesity. We collected anthropomorphic and metabolic measurements at three timepoints over a median of 13 years in 1,969 adult twins of European ancestry and at a single timepoint in 427 unrelated volunteers. We observe that obesity results in a profound perturbation of the metabolome; nearly a third of the assayed metabolites are associated with changes in BMI. A metabolome signature identifies the healthy obese and also identifies lean individuals with abnormal metabolomes--these groups differ in health outcomes and underlying genetic risk. Because metabolome profiling identifies clinically meaningful heterogeneity in obesity, this approach could help select patients for clinical trials.

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