Serum metabolomics reveals γ-glutamyl dipeptides as biomarkers for discrimination among different forms of liver disease

J Hepatol. 2011 Oct;55(4):896-905. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.01.031. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


Background & aims: We applied a metabolome profiling approach to serum samples obtained from patients with different liver diseases, to discover noninvasive and reliable biomarkers for rapid-screening diagnosis of liver diseases.

Methods: Using capillary electrophoresis and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, we analyzed low molecular weight metabolites in a total of 248 serum samples obtained from patients with nine types of liver disease and healthy controls.

Results: We found that γ-glutamyl dipeptides, which were biosynthesized through a reaction with γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase, were indicative of the production of reduced glutathione, and that measurement of their levels could distinguish among different liver diseases. Multiple logistic regression models facilitated the discrimination between specific and other liver diseases and yielded high areas under receiver-operating characteristic curves. The area under the curve values in training and independent validation data were 0.952 and 0.967 in healthy controls, 0.817 and 0.849 in drug-induced liver injury, 0.754 and 0.763 in asymptomatic hepatitis B virus infection, 0.820 and 0.762 in chronic hepatitis B, 0.972 and 0.895 in hepatitis C with persistently normal alanine transaminase, 0.917 and 0.707 in chronic hepatitis C, 0.803 and 0.993 in cirrhosis type C, and 0.762 and 0.803 in hepatocellular carcinoma, respectively. Several γ-glutamyl dipeptides also manifested potential for differentiating between nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and simple steatosis.

Conclusions: γ-Glutamyl dipeptides are novel biomarkers for liver diseases, and varying levels of individual or groups of these peptides have the power to discriminate among different forms of hepatic disease.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dipeptides / blood*
  • Fatty Liver / blood
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Glutamine / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases / blood*
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Metabolomics / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Protein Array Analysis / methods
  • Protein Array Analysis / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Biomarkers
  • Dipeptides
  • Glutamine