Distinct changes in serum metabolites and lipid species in the onset and progression of NAFLD in obese Chinese.

Chen J, Lu RS, Diaz-Canestro C, Song E, Jia X, Liu Y, Wang C, Cheung CKY, Panagiotou G#, Xu A# (2024) Distinct changes in serum metabolites and lipid species in the onset and progression of NAFLD in obese Chinese. Comput Struct Biotechnol J 23(2024), 791-800.

#corresponding author


Introduction: Metabolic disturbances are major contributors to the onset and progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which includes a histological spectrum ranging from single steatosis (SS) to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This study aimed to identify serum metabolites and lipids enriched in different histological stages of NAFLD and to explore metabolites/lipids as non-invasive biomarkers in risk prediction of NAFLD and NASH in obese Chinese.

Methods: Serum samples and liver biopsies were obtained from 250 NAFLD subjects. Untargeted metabolomic and lipidomic profiling were performed using Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. Significantly altered metabolites and lipids were identified by MaAsLin2. Pathway enrichment was conducted with MetaboAnalyst and LIPEA. WGCNA was implemented to construct the co-expression network. Logistic regression models were developed to classify different histological stages of NAFLD.

Results: A total of 263 metabolites and 550 lipid species were detected in serum samples. Differential analysis and pathway enrichment analysis revealed the progressive patterns in metabolic mechanisms during the transition from normal liver to SS and to NASH, including N-palmitoyltaurine, tridecylic acid, and branched-chain amino acid signaling pathways. The co-expression network showed a distinct correlation between different triglyceride and phosphatidylcholine species with disease severity. Multiple models classifying NAFLD versus normal liver and NASH versus SS identified important metabolic features associated with significant improvement in disease prediction compared to conventional clinical parameters.

Conclusion: Different histological stages of NAFLD are enriched with distinct sets of metabolites, lipids, and metabolic pathways. Integrated algorithms highlight the important metabolic and lipidomic features for diagnosis and staging of NAFLD in obese individuals.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Chinese; Lipidomics; Metabolomics; Multi-omics; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; Obesity; Prediction model; Simple steatosis.


Jiarui Chen
Gianni Panagiotou


doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2024.01.007

PMID: 38318437