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Keywords:

  • Cirrhosis;
  • HCC ;
  • liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry;
  • metabolic profiling;
  • Metabolomics

Abstract

Background & Aims

The metabolic pathway disturbances associated with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remain unsatisfactorily characterized. Determination of the metabolic alterations associated with the presence of HCC can improve our understanding of the pathophysiology of this cancer and may provide opportunities for improved disease monitoring of patients at risk for HCC development. To characterize the global metabolic alterations associated with HCC arising from hepatitis C (HCV)-associated cirrhosis using an integrated non-targeted metabolomics methodology employing both gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC/MS-MS).

Methods

The global serum metabolomes of 30 HCC patients, 27 hepatitis C cirrhosis disease controls and 30 healthy volunteers were characterized using a metabolomics approach that combined two metabolomics platforms, GC/MS and UPLC/MS-MS. Random forest, multivariate statistics and receiver operator characteristic analysis were performed to identify the most significantly altered metabolites in HCC patients vs. HCV-cirrhosis controls and which therefore exhibited a close association with the presence of HCC.

Results

Elevated 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HETE), 15-HETE, sphingosine, γ-glutamyl oxidative stress-associated metabolites, xanthine, amino acids serine, glycine and aspartate, and acylcarnitines were strongly associated with the presence of HCC. Elevations in bile acids and dicarboxylic acids were highly correlated with cirrhosis.

Conclusions

Integrated metabolomic profiling through GC/MS and UPLC/MS-MS identified global metabolic disturbances in HCC and HCV-cirrhosis. Aberrant amino acid biosynthesis, cell turnover regulation, reactive oxygen species neutralization and eicosanoid pathways may be hallmarks of HCC. Aberrant dicarboxylic acid metabolism, enhanced bile acid metabolism and elevations in fibrinogen cleavage peptides may be signatures of cirrhosis.