Clinical and biochemical associations of urinary metabolites: quantitative epidemiological approach on renal-cardiometabolic biomarkers

Tianqi Li, Andrei Ihanus, Pauli Ohukainen, Marjo-Riitta Järvelin, Mika Kähönen, Johannes Kettunen, Olli T Raitakari, Terho Lehtimäki, Ville-Petteri Mäkinen, Tuulia Tynkkynen, Mika Ala-Korpela

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BACKGROUND: Urinary metabolomics has demonstrated considerable potential to assess kidney function and its metabolic corollaries in health and disease. However, applications in epidemiology remain sparse due to technical challenges.

METHODS: We added 17 metabolites to an open-access urinary nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics platform, extending the panel to 61 metabolites (n = 994). We also introduced automated quantification for 11 metabolites, extending the panel to 12 metabolites (+creatinine). Epidemiological associations between these 12 metabolites and 49 clinical measures were studied in three independent cohorts (up to 5989 participants). Detailed regression analyses with various confounding factors are presented for body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

RESULTS: Sex-specific population reference concentrations and distributions are provided for 61 urinary metabolites (419 men and 575 women), together with methodological intra-assay metabolite variations as well as the biological intra-individual and epidemiological population variations. For the 12 metabolites, 362 associations were found. These are mostly novel and reflect potential molecular proxies to estimate kidney function, as the associations cannot be simply explained by estimated glomerular filtration rate. Unspecific renal excretion results in leakage of amino acids (and glucose) to urine in all individuals. Seven urinary metabolites associated with smoking, providing questionnaire-independent proxy measures of smoking status in epidemiological studies. Common confounders did not affect metabolite associations with smoking, but insulin had a clear effect on most associations with BMI, including strong effects on 2-hydroxyisobutyrate, valine, alanine, trigonelline and hippurate.

CONCLUSIONS: Urinary metabolomics provides new insight on kidney function and related biomarkers on the renal-cardiometabolic system, supporting large-scale applications in epidemiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdyad162
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
Early online date29 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Epidemiology
  • Internal Medicine
  • Nephrology


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