Metabolomic analyses of faeces reveals malabsorption in cirrhotic patients

Dig Liver Dis. 2013 Aug;45(8):677-82. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2013.01.001. Epub 2013 Feb 4.


Background: The study of faeces offers a unique opportunity to observe cooperation between the microbiome and the metabolism of mammalian hosts, an essential element in the study of the human metabolome. In the present study, a global metabolomics approach was used to identify metabolites differentially excreted in the faeces of cirrhotic patients compared to controls.

Methods: Seventeen cirrhotic patients and 24 healthy individuals were recruited. Faecal metabolites were detected through non-targeted reversed-phase ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry.

Results: A total of 9215 peaks were detected. Using unequal variance t-tests, 2393 peaks were observed with P≤0.05, approximately 74.0% of which were due to decreased faecal metabolite concentrations in liver cirrhosis vs. healthy controls. Integrating multivariate data analyses, we identified six major groups of metabolites. Relative levels of identified metabolites were as follows: strong increase in lysophosphatidylcholines, aromatic amino acids, fatty acids, and acylcarnitines, and a dramatic decrease in bile acids and bile pigments.

Conclusion: With severe hepatic injury in patients with liver cirrhosis, malabsorption occurs along with disorders of fatty acid metabolism, potentially due to changes in gut microflora.

Keywords: Faecal water extracts; Liver cirrhosis; Metabolomics; UPLC/Q-TOF MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids, Aromatic / analysis
  • Bile Acids and Salts / analysis
  • Bile Pigments / analysis
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives
  • Carnitine / analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism*
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / analysis
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / etiology
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolome*
  • Middle Aged


  • Amino Acids, Aromatic
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Bile Pigments
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • acylcarnitine
  • Carnitine