Integration of metabolomic and transcriptomic networks in pregnant women reveals biological pathways and predictive signatures associated with preeclampsia

Metabolomics. 2017 Jan;13(1):7. doi: 10.1007/s11306-016-1149-8. Epub 2016 Dec 12.


Introduction: Preeclampsia is a leading cause of maternal and fetal mortality worldwide, yet its exact pathogenesis remains elusive.

Objectives: This study, nested within the Vitamin D Antenatal Asthma Reduction Trial (VDAART), aimed to develop integrated omics models of preeclampsia that have utility in both prediction and in the elucidation of underlying biological mechanisms.

Methods: Metabolomic profiling was performed on first trimester plasma samples of 47 pregnant women from VDAART who subsequently developed preeclampsia and 62 controls with healthy pregnancies, using liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry. Metabolomic profiles were generated based on logistic regression models and assessed using Received Operator Characteristic Curve analysis. These profiles were compared to profiles from generated using third trimester samples. The first trimester metabolite profile was then integrated with a pre-existing transcriptomic profile using network methods.

Results: In total, 72 (0.9%) metabolite features were associated (p<0.01) with preeclampsia after adjustment for maternal age, race, and gestational age. These features had moderate to good discriminatory ability; in ROC curve analyses a summary score based on these features displayed an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.794 (95%CI 0.700, 0.888). This profile retained the ability to distinguish preeclamptic from healthy pregnancies in the third trimester (AUC:0.762 (95% CI 0.663, 0.860)). Additionally, metabolite set enrichment analysis identified common pathways, including glycerophospholipid metabolism, at the two time-points. Integration with the transcriptomic signature refined these results suggesting a particular role for lipid imbalance, immune function and the circulatory system.

Conclusions: These findings suggest it is possible to develop a predictive metabolomic profile of preeclampsia. This profile is characterized by changes in lipid and amino acid metabolism and dysregulation of immune response and can be refined through interaction with transcriptomic data. However validation in larger and more diverse populations is required.

Keywords: Integrative omics; Preeclampsia; VDAART; metabolomics.