Purpose of review: This article summarizes recent studies on uremia-induced alterations in metabolism, with particular emphasis on the application of emerging metabolomics technologies.
Recent findings: The plasma metabolome is estimated to include more than 4000 distinct metabolites. Because these metabolites can vary dramatically in size and polarity and are distributed across several orders of magnitude in relative abundance, no single analytical method is capable of comprehensive metabolomic profiling. Instead, a variety of analytical techniques, including targeted and nontargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, have been employed for metabolomic analysis of human plasma. Recent efforts to apply this technology to study uremia have reinforced the common view that end-stage renal disease is a state of generalized small molecule excess. However, the identification of precursor depletion and downstream metabolite excess - for example, with tryptophan and downstream kynurenine metabolites, with low molecular weight triglycerides and dicarboxylic acids, and with phosphatidylcholines, choline, and trimethylamine-N-oxide - suggest that uremia may directly modulate these metabolic pathways. Metabolomic studies have also begun to expand some of these findings to individuals with chronic kidney disease and in model systems.
Summary: Uremia is associated with diverse, but incompletely understood metabolic disturbances. Metabolomic approaches permit higher resolution phenotyping of these disturbances, but significant efforts will be required to understand the functional significance of select findings.