Assessment of metabolic phenotypic variability in children's urine using 1H NMR spectroscopy

Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 19;7:46082. doi: 10.1038/srep46082.


The application of metabolic phenotyping in clinical and epidemiological studies is limited by a poor understanding of inter-individual, intra-individual and temporal variability in metabolic phenotypes. Using 1H NMR spectroscopy we characterised short-term variability in urinary metabolites measured from 20 children aged 8-9 years old. Daily spot morning, night-time and pooled (50:50 morning and night-time) urine samples across six days (18 samples per child) were analysed, and 44 metabolites quantified. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) and mixed effect models were applied to assess the reproducibility and biological variance of metabolic phenotypes. Excellent analytical reproducibility and precision was demonstrated for the 1H NMR spectroscopic platform (median CV 7.2%). Pooled samples captured the best inter-individual variability with an ICC of 0.40 (median). Trimethylamine, N-acetyl neuraminic acid, 3-hydroxyisobutyrate, 3-hydroxybutyrate/3-aminoisobutyrate, tyrosine, valine and 3-hydroxyisovalerate exhibited the highest stability with over 50% of variance specific to the child. The pooled sample was shown to capture the most inter-individual variance in the metabolic phenotype, which is of importance for molecular epidemiology study design. A substantial proportion of the variation in the urinary metabolome of children is specific to the individual, underlining the potential of such data to inform clinical and exposome studies conducted early in life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Methylamines / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Urine / chemistry*


  • Methylamines
  • trimethyloxamine