A joint analysis of transcriptomic and metabolomic data uncovers enhanced enzyme-metabolite coupling in breast cancer

Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 13:6:29662. doi: 10.1038/srep29662.


Disrupted regulation of cellular processes is considered one of the hallmarks of cancer. We analyze metabolomic and transcriptomic profiles jointly collected from breast cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma patients to explore the associations between the expression of metabolic enzymes and the levels of the metabolites participating in the reactions they catalyze. Surprisingly, both breast cancer and hepatocellular tumors exhibit an increase in their gene-metabolites associations compared to noncancerous adjacent tissues. Following, we build predictors of metabolite levels from the expression of the enzyme genes catalyzing them. Applying these predictors to a large cohort of breast cancer samples we find that depleted levels of key cancer-related metabolites including glucose, glycine, serine and acetate are significantly associated with improved patient survival. Thus, we show that the levels of a wide range of metabolites in breast cancer can be successfully predicted from the transcriptome, going beyond the limited set of those measured.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Transcriptome / genetics*