Metabolic profiling of presymptomatic Huntington's disease sheep reveals novel biomarkers

Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 22;7:43030. doi: 10.1038/srep43030.


The pronounced cachexia (unexplained wasting) seen in Huntington's disease (HD) patients suggests that metabolic dysregulation plays a role in HD pathogenesis, although evidence of metabolic abnormalities in HD patients is inconsistent. We performed metabolic profiling of plasma from presymptomatic HD transgenic and control sheep. Metabolites were quantified in sequential plasma samples taken over a 25 h period using a targeted LC/MS metabolomics approach. Significant changes with respect to genotype were observed in 89/130 identified metabolites, including sphingolipids, biogenic amines, amino acids and urea. Citrulline and arginine increased significantly in HD compared to control sheep. Ten other amino acids decreased in presymptomatic HD sheep, including branched chain amino acids (isoleucine, leucine and valine) that have been identified previously as potential biomarkers of HD. Significant increases in urea, arginine, citrulline, asymmetric and symmetric dimethylarginine, alongside decreases in sphingolipids, indicate that both the urea cycle and nitric oxide pathways are dysregulated at early stages in HD. Logistic prediction modelling identified a set of 8 biomarkers that can identify 80% of the presymptomatic HD sheep as transgenic, with 90% confidence. This level of sensitivity, using minimally invasive methods, offers novel opportunities for monitoring disease progression in HD patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Area Under Curve
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives
  • Arginine / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Citrulline / metabolism
  • Genotype
  • Huntington Disease / metabolism
  • Huntington Disease / pathology*
  • Huntington Disease / veterinary
  • Logistic Models
  • Metabolomics*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sheep


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Biomarkers
  • Citrulline
  • symmetric dimethylarginine
  • N,N-dimethylarginine
  • Arginine