An overview of renal metabolomics

Kidney Int. 2017 Jan;91(1):61-69. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2016.08.021. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


The high-throughput, high-resolution phenotyping enabled by metabolomics has been applied increasingly to a variety of questions in nephrology research. This article provides an overview of current metabolomics methodologies and nomenclature, citing specific considerations in sample preparation, metabolite measurement, and data analysis that investigators should understand when examining the literature or designing a study. Furthermore, we review several notable findings that have emerged in the literature that both highlight some of the limitations of current profiling approaches, as well as outline specific strengths unique to metabolomics. More specifically, we review data on the following: (i) tryptophan metabolites and chronic kidney disease onset, illustrating the interpretation of metabolite data in the context of established biochemical pathways; (ii) trimethylamine-N-oxide and cardiovascular disease in chronic kidney disease, illustrating the integration of exogenous and endogenous inputs to the blood metabolome; and (iii) renal mitochondrial function in diabetic kidney disease and acute kidney injury, illustrating the potential for rapid translation of metabolite data for diagnostic or therapeutic aims. Finally, we review future directions, including the need to better characterize interperson and intraperson variation in the metabolome, pool existing data sets to identify the most robust signals, and capitalize on the discovery potential of emerging nontargeted methods.

Keywords: acute kidney injury; chronic kidney disease; uremia; uremic toxins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / blood
  • Acute Kidney Injury / metabolism*
  • Analytic Sample Preparation Methods
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / blood
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolome
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Metabolomics / trends
  • Methylamines / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / blood
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Tryptophan / metabolism


  • Methylamines
  • Tryptophan
  • trimethyloxamine