Nonhuman primate breath volatile organic compounds associate with developmental programming and cardio-metabolic status

J Breath Res. 2018 May 14;12(3):036016. doi: 10.1088/1752-7163/aaba84.


Rodent and nonhuman primate studies indicate that developmental programming by reduced perinatal nutrition negatively impacts life course cardio-metabolic health. We have developed a baboon model in which we feed control mothers (CON) ad libitum while nutrient restricted mothers are fed 70% of ad libitum global feed in pregnancy and lactation. Offspring of nutrient restricted mothers are intrauterine growth restricted (IUGR) at term. By 3.5 years IUGR baboons showed signs of insulin resistance, indicating a pre-diabetic phenotype, in contrast to healthy CON offspring. We hypothesized that a novel breath analysis approach would provide markers of the altered cardio-metabolic state in a non-invasive manner. Here we assess whether exhaled breath volatile organic compounds (VOCs) collected from this unique cohort of juvenile baboons with documented cardio-metabolic dysfunction resulting from in utero programming can be detected from their breath signatures. Breath was collected from male and female CON and IUGR baboons at 4.8 ± 0.2 years (human equivalent ∼13 years). Breath VOCs were quantified using a two-dimensional gas chromatography mass spectrometer. Two-way ANOVA, on 76 biologically relevant VOCs identified 27 VOCs (p < 0.05) with altered abundances between groups (sex, birthweight, and sex x birthweight). The 27 VOCs included 2-pentanone, 2-octanone, 2,2,7,7-tetramethyloctane and 3-methyl-1-heptene, which have not previously been associated with cardio-metabolic disease. Unsupervised principal component analysis of these VOCs could discriminate the four clusters defining males, females, CON and IUGR. This study, which is the first to assess quantifiable breath signatures associated with cardio-metabolic programing for any model of IUGR, demonstrates the translational value of this unique model to identify metabolites of programmed cardio-metabolic dysfunction in breath signatures. Future studies are required to validate the translatability of these findings to humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Birth Weight
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism*
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnosis
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Male
  • Papio
  • Pregnancy
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Volatile Organic Compounds