Application of metabolomics: Focus on the quantification of organic acids in healthy adults

Int J Mol Med. 2017 Jul;40(1):112-120. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2017.2983. Epub 2017 May 10.


Metabolomics, a 'budding' discipline, may accurately reflect a specific phenotype which is sensitive to genetic and epigenetic interactions. This rapidly evolving field in science has been proposed as a tool for the evaluation of the effects of epigenetic factors, such as nutrition, environment, drug and lifestyle on phenotype. Urine, being sterile, is easy to obtain and as it contains metabolized or non‑metabolized products, is a favored study material in the field of metabolomics. Urine organic acids (OAs) reflect the activity of main metabolic pathways and have been used to assess health status, nutritional status, vitamin deficiencies and response to xenobiotics. To date, a limited number of studies have been performed which actually define reference OA values in a healthy population and as reference range for epigenetic influences, and not as a reference to congenital metabolic diseases. The aim of the present study was thus the determination of reference values (RVs) for urine OA in a healthy adult population. Targeted metabolomics analysis of 22 OAs in the urine of 122 healthy adults by gas chromatography‑mass spectrometry, was conducted. Percentile distributions of the OA concentrations in urine, as a base for determining the RVs in the respective population sample, were used. No significant differences were detected between female and male individuals. These findings can facilitate the more sensitive determination of OAs in pathological conditions. Therefore, the findings of this study may contribute or add to the information already available on urine metabolite databases, and may thus promote the use of targeted metabolomics for the evaluation of OAs in a clinical setting and for pathophysiological evaluation. However, further studies with well‑defined patients groups exhibiting specific symptoms or diseases are warranted in order to discern between normal and pathological values.

MeSH terms

  • Acids / urine*
  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged


  • Acids