Metabolic changes have been frequently associated with Huntington’s disease (HD). At the same time peripheral blood represents a minimally invasive sampling avenue with little distress to Huntington’s disease patients especially when brain or other tissue samples are difficult to collect.
We investigated the levels of 163 metabolites in HD patient and control serum samples in order to identify disease related changes. Additionally, we integrated the metabolomics data with our previously published next generation sequencing-based gene expression data from the same patients in order to interconnect the metabolomics changes with transcriptional alterations.
This analysis was performed using targeted metabolomics and flow injection electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry in 133 serum samples from 97 Huntington’s disease patients (29 pre-symptomatic and 68 symptomatic) and 36 controls.
By comparing HD mutation carriers with controls we identified 3 metabolites significantly changed in HD (serine and threonine and one phosphatidylcholine—PC ae C36:0) and an additional 8 phosphatidylcholines (PC aa C38:6, PC aa C36:0, PC ae C38:0, PC aa C38:0, PC ae C38:6, PC ae C42:0, PC aa C36:5 and PC ae C36:0) that exhibited a significant association with disease severity. Using workflow based exploitation of pathway databases and by integrating our metabolomics data with our gene expression data from the same patients we identified 4 deregulated phosphatidylcholine metabolism related genes (ALDH1B1, MBOAT1, MTRR andPLB1) that showed significant association with the changes in metabolite concentrations.
Our results support the notion that phosphatidylcholine metabolism is deregulated in HD blood and that these metabolite alterations are associated with specific gene expression changes.