Background: Traumatic stress does not only increase the risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is also associated with adverse secondary physical health outcomes. Despite increasing efforts, we only begin to understand the underlying biomolecular processes. The hypothesis-free assessment of a wide range of metabolites (termed metabolite profiling) might contribute to the discovery of biological pathways underlying PTSD.
Methods: Here, we present the results of the first metabolite profiling study in PTSD, which investigated peripheral blood serum samples of 20 PTSD patients and 18 controls. We performed liquid chromatography (LC) coupled to Quadrupole/Time-Of-Flight (QTOF) mass spectrometry. Two complementary statistical approaches were used to identify metabolites associated with PTSD status including univariate analyses and Partial Least Squares Discriminant Analysis (PLS-DA).
Results: Thirteen metabolites displayed significant changes in PTSD, including four glycerophospholipids, and one metabolite involved in endocannabinoid signaling. A biomarker panel of 19 metabolites classifies PTSD with 85% accuracy, while classification accuracy from the glycerophospholipid with the highest differentiating ability already reached 82%.
Conclusions: This study illustrates the feasibility and utility of metabolite profiling for PTSD and suggests lipid-derived and endocannabinoid signaling as potential biological pathways involved in trauma-associated pathophysiology.
Keywords: Biological pathways; Glycerophospholipid; Mass spectrometry; Metabolite profiling; Palmitoylethanolamide; Posttraumatic stress disorder.