A GC/MS-based metabolomic approach for diagnosing citrin deficiency

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2011 Jun;400(7):1881-94. doi: 10.1007/s00216-011-4766-0. Epub 2011 Mar 2.


Citrin is the hepatic mitochondrial aspartate-glutamate carrier that is encoded by the gene SLC25A13. Citrin deficiency often leads to hyperammonemia, for which the current treatment concept is different from that for primary hyperammonemias. Metabolite level diagnosis, often referred to as chemical diagnosis, is not always successful in identifying citrin deficiency immediately or in a timely fashion. We previously made the chemical diagnosis of citrin deficiency in ten patients from nine families. In order to devise a more rapid and more accurate chemical diagnosis of this disorder than is currently available, we reinvestigated the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry-based urine metabolome in these patients. In patients aged 2 to 5 months, prominent biomarkers detected included one or more of the following metabolites: tyrosine, p-hydroxyphenyllactate, p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate, and N-acetyltyrosine, galactose, galactitol and galactonate, glucose, glucitol, and cystathionine. These biomarkers are less prominent in older patients, but are not increased in argininosuccinate synthetase deficiency or other hyperammonemias. α-Ketoglutaramate (KGM), a recently recognized urinary biomarker of primary hyperammonemias associated with defects of the urea cycle, was increased in most patients with citrin deficiency studied here in spite of normal urinary levels of glutamine (the immediate precursor of KGM), 5-oxoproline, glutamate, aspartate, and asparagine. Other important urinary biomarkers that should be measured for differential diagnosis of hyperammonemias, including orotate, uracil, and β-ureidopropionate, were not increased. The presence of citrulline and citrulline-derived metabolites was noted in all cases. The present study shows that noninvasive urine metabolomics, together with an analysis of selected metabolites or groups of metabolites, provides a more reliable and rapid chemical diagnosis of citrin deficiency than was previously available and more readily differentiates this disorder from other hyperammonemic syndromes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / deficiency*
  • Deficiency Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Deficiency Diseases / urine
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics*
  • Organic Anion Transporters / deficiency*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • citrin