NMR spectroscopic-based metabonomic studies of urinary metabolite variation in acclimatizing germ-free rats

Chem Res Toxicol. 2003 Nov;16(11):1395-404. doi: 10.1021/tx0340293.


Understanding metabolic variation in "normal" animals is critical to the evaluation of drug-induced metabolic perturbation related to toxicity or pharmacology. NMR spectroscopic-based metabonomic methods were used to evaluate the acclimatization pathways of germ-free (axenic) rats to standard laboratory conditions concomitant with the associated development of gut microfloral communities. Urine samples from male Fischer 344 germ-free rats were collected over 21 days following introduction to a standard laboratory environment and analyzed using NMR spectroscopy. NMR spectra were data-reduced and analyzed using principal component analysis to visualize the changes in the host metabolic trajectory over the course of the study. At days 2 and 6 of the acclimatization process, there were marked episodes of glycosuria. In comparison to the concentrations in the 0-6 h samples, there was a reduction in the level of the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates (citrate, 2-oxoglutarate, and succinate) from 6 h to day 6, after which there was a sustained increase until the end of the study. The concentrations of hippurate and trimethylamine N-oxide increased over the course of the study in comparison to the levels at 0-6 h, with the most pronounced increase in the former between days 17 and 21. Phenylacetylglycine levels increased after 6 h whereas 3-hydroxypropionic acid was observed at day 12 and increased up to day 17. By day 21, the urinary metabolic profile was within the control range when compared to historical data, implying the establishment of a stable gut microflora. Although the metabolic alterations caused by the microbial alterations were not as substantial as those from metabolic dysfunction, their presence does have an effect on the interpretation of the profiles, the state of the animal, and the mechanism for the cause of such alterations. Furthermore, the use of oral drug delivery will have an effect on the microbial state, not only as a direct influence of the drug but also from it's associated vehicle. Such effects are likely to be observed particularly in the area of preclinical investigation where the data from these studies are of particular relevance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Citric Acid Cycle / physiology
  • Digestive System / metabolism*
  • Digestive System / microbiology*
  • Germ-Free Life / physiology*
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / urine
  • Glycosuria / metabolism
  • Hippurates / urine
  • Housing, Animal
  • Lactic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Lactic Acid / urine
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Methylamines / urine
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom
  • Urinalysis / methods*


  • Hippurates
  • Methylamines
  • Lactic Acid
  • phenylacetylglycine
  • hydracrylic acid
  • trimethyloxamine
  • hippuric acid
  • Glycine