Metabolomics and transcriptomics identify pathway differences between visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue in colorectal cancer patients: the ColoCare study

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Aug;102(2):433-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103804. Epub 2015 Jul 8.


Background: Metabolic and transcriptomic differences between visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) compartments, particularly in the context of obesity, may play a role in colorectal carcinogenesis. We investigated the differential functions of their metabolic compositions.

Objectives: Biochemical differences between adipose tissues (VAT compared with SAT) in patients with colorectal carcinoma (CRC) were investigated by using mass spectrometry metabolomics and gene expression profiling. Metabolite compositions were compared between VAT, SAT, and serum metabolites. The relation between patients' tumor stage and metabolic profiles was assessed.

Design: Presurgery blood and paired VAT and SAT samples during tumor surgery were obtained from 59 CRC patients (tumor stages I-IV) of the ColoCare cohort. Gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry were used to measure 1065 metabolites in adipose tissue (333 identified compounds) and 1810 metabolites in serum (467 identified compounds). Adipose tissue gene expression was measured by using Illumina's HumanHT-12 Expression BeadChips.

Results: Compared with SAT, VAT displayed elevated markers of inflammatory lipid metabolism, free arachidonic acid, phospholipases (PLA2G10), and prostaglandin synthesis-related enzymes (PTGD/PTGS2S). Plasmalogen concentrations were lower in VAT than in SAT, which was supported by lower gene expression of FAR1, the rate-limiting enzyme for ether-lipid synthesis in VAT. Serum sphingomyelin concentrations were inversely correlated (P = 0.0001) with SAT adipose triglycerides. Logistic regression identified lipids in patients' adipose tissues, which were associated with CRC tumor stage.

Conclusions: As one of the first studies, we comprehensively assessed differences in metabolic, lipidomic, and transcriptomic profiles between paired human VAT and SAT and their association with CRC tumor stage. We identified markers of inflammation in VAT, which supports prior evidence regarding the role of visceral adiposity and cancer.

Trial registration: NCT02328677.

Keywords: adipose tissue; colorectal cancer; inflammation; metabolomics; obesity; visceral adiposity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / physiopathology*
  • Carcinoma / surgery
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / immunology
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Panniculitis / etiology*
  • Panniculitis / immunology
  • Panniculitis / metabolism
  • Panniculitis / pathology
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / etiology*
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / immunology
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / metabolism
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / immunology
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / metabolism*
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / pathology


  • Biomarkers

Associated data