Metabolomics for clinical use and research in chronic kidney disease

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2017 May;13(5):269-284. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2017.30. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has a high prevalence in the general population and is associated with high mortality; a need therefore exists for better biomarkers for diagnosis, monitoring of disease progression and therapy stratification. Moreover, very sensitive biomarkers are needed in drug development and clinical research to increase understanding of the efficacy and safety of potential and existing therapies. Metabolomics analyses can identify and quantify all metabolites present in a given sample, covering hundreds to thousands of metabolites. Sample preparation for metabolomics requires a very fast arrest of biochemical processes. Present key technologies for metabolomics are mass spectrometry and proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which require sophisticated biostatistic and bioinformatic data analyses. The use of metabolomics has been instrumental in identifying new biomarkers of CKD such as acylcarnitines, glycerolipids, dimethylarginines and metabolites of tryptophan, the citric acid cycle and the urea cycle. Biomarkers such as c-mannosyl tryptophan and pseudouridine have better performance in CKD stratification than does creatinine. Future challenges in metabolomics analyses are prospective studies and deconvolution of CKD biomarkers from those of other diseases such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory conditions, stress and cancer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives
  • Arginine / blood
  • Biomarkers
  • Biomedical Research
  • Carnitine / analogs & derivatives
  • Carnitine / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Metabolomics* / methods
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • acylcarnitine
  • symmetric dimethylarginine
  • Arginine
  • Carnitine