Untargeted Multiomics Approach Coupling Lipidomics and Metabolomics Profiling Reveals New Insights in Diabetic Retinopathy

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jul 27;24(15):12053. doi: 10.3390/ijms241512053.


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a microvascular complication of diabetes mellitus (DM) which is the main cause of vision loss in the working-age population. Currently known risk factors such as age, disease duration, and hemoglobin A1c lack sufficient efficiency to distinguish patients with early stages of DR. A total of 194 plasma samples were collected from patients with type 2 DM and DR (moderate to proliferative (PDR) or control (no or mild DR) matched for age, gender, diabetes duration, HbA1c, and hypertension. Untargeted lipidomic and metabolomic approaches were performed. Partial-least square methods were used to analyze the datasets. Levels of 69 metabolites and 85 lipid species were found to be significantly different in the plasma of DR patients versus controls. Metabolite set enrichment analysis indicated that pathways such as metabolism of branched-chain amino acids (methylglutaryl carnitine p = 0.004), the kynurenine pathway (tryptophan p < 0.001), and microbiota metabolism (p-Cresol sulfate p = 0.004) were among the most enriched deregulated pathways in the DR group. Moreover, Glucose-6-phosphate (p = 0.001) and N-methyl-glutamate (p < 0.001) were upregulated in DR. Subgroup analyses identified a specific signature associated with PDR, macular oedema, and DR associated with chronic kidney disease. Phosphatidylcholines (PCs) were dysregulated, with an increase of alkyl-PCs (PC O-42:5 p < 0.001) in DR, while non-ether PCs (PC 14:0-16:1, p < 0.001; PC 18:2-14:0, p < 0.001) were decreased in the DR group. Through an unbiased multiomics approach, we identified metabolites and lipid species that interestingly discriminate patients with or without DR. These features could be a research basis to identify new potential plasma biomarkers to promote 3P medicine.

Keywords: diabetic retinopathy; lipidomics; metabolomics.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetic Retinopathy* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipidomics
  • Lipids
  • Metabolomics
  • Multiomics


  • Lipids