Metabolic phenotyping (metabolomics) captures systems-level information on metabolic processes by simultaneously measuring hundreds of metabolites using spectroscopic techniques. Concentrations of these metabolites are affected by genetic (host, microbiome), environmental and dietary factors and may provide insights into biochemical pathways underlying raised blood pressure (BP) in populations.
Design and method:
Two separate, timed 24hr urine specimens were obtained from 2,031 women and men, aged 40–59, from 8 USA population samples in the INTERMAP Study. Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (1H NMR) was used to characterize a urinary metabolic signature; this was unaffected by diurnal variability and sampling time as it captures end-products of metabolism over a 24hr period. Demographic, population, medical, lifestyle and anthropometric factors were accounted for in regression models to define a urinary metabolic phenotype associated with BP.
29 structurally identified urinary metabolites covaried with systolic BP (SBP), after adjustment for demographic variables, and 18 metabolites with diastolic BP (DBP), with 16 metabolites overlapping between SBP and DBP. These included metabolites related to energy metabolism, renal function, diet and gut microbiota. After adjustment for medical and lifestyle covariates, 22/14 metabolites remained associated with SBP/DBP. Joint covariate-metabolite penalized regression models identified Body Mass Index, age and family history as most important contributors, with 14 metabolites, including gut microbial co-metabolites, also included in the model. Metabolites were mapped in a symbiotic metabolic reaction network, that includes reactions mediated by 3,344 commensal gut microbial species, to highlight affected pathways (Figure). Significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from genome-wide association studies on cardiometabolic risk factors were mapped to genes in this network. This revealed multiple subnetworks of gene-metabolite pairs related to BP and related cardiometabolic factors and includes 54 SNPs directly related to reactions in the network. These 54 SNPs were then used as instrumental variables to test for possible causative metabolite-BP associations in an external cohort (Airwave Study).
These results highlight the complex interplay between human genes, the microbiome and metabolites associated with BP and other cardiometabolic risk factors.