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Concept: Metabolic pathway


More than 2 million people in the United States have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). We performed targeted, broad-spectrum metabolomics to gain insights into the biology of CFS. We studied a total of 84 subjects using these methods. Forty-five subjects (n = 22 men and 23 women) met diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS by Institute of Medicine, Canadian, and Fukuda criteria. Thirty-nine subjects (n = 18 men and 21 women) were age- and sex-matched normal controls. Males with CFS were 53 (±2.8) y old (mean ± SEM; range, 21-67 y). Females were 52 (±2.5) y old (range, 20-67 y). The Karnofsky performance scores were 62 (±3.2) for males and 54 (±3.3) for females. We targeted 612 metabolites in plasma from 63 biochemical pathways by hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography, electrospray ionization, and tandem mass spectrometry in a single-injection method. Patients with CFS showed abnormalities in 20 metabolic pathways. Eighty percent of the diagnostic metabolites were decreased, consistent with a hypometabolic syndrome. Pathway abnormalities included sphingolipid, phospholipid, purine, cholesterol, microbiome, pyrroline-5-carboxylate, riboflavin, branch chain amino acid, peroxisomal, and mitochondrial metabolism. Area under the receiver operator characteristic curve analysis showed diagnostic accuracies of 94% [95% confidence interval (CI), 84-100%] in males using eight metabolites and 96% (95% CI, 86-100%) in females using 13 metabolites. Our data show that despite the heterogeneity of factors leading to CFS, the cellular metabolic response in patients was homogeneous, statistically robust, and chemically similar to the evolutionarily conserved persistence response to environmental stress known as dauer.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mass spectrometry, Biochemistry, Metabolic pathway, Chronic fatigue syndrome


The description of a metabolic network in terms of elementary (flux) modes (EMs) provides an important framework for metabolic pathway analysis. However, their application to large networks has been hampered by the combinatorial explosion in the number of modes. In this work, we develop a method for generating random samples of EMs without computing the whole set.

Concepts: Metabolism, Mathematics, Set theory, Metabolic pathway, Randomization, Metabolic network, Metabolic network modelling, Exponentiation


BACKGROUND: Lignin materials are abundant and among the most important potential sources for biofuel production. Development of an efficient lignin degradation process has considerable potential for the production of a variety of chemicals, including bioethanol. However, lignin degradation using current methods is inefficient. Given their immense environmental adaptability and biochemical versatility, bacterial could be used as a valuable tool for the rapid degradation of lignin. Kraft lignin (KL) is a polymer by-product of the pulp and paper industry resulting from alkaline sulfide treatment of lignocellulose, and it has been widely used for lignin-related studies. RESULTS: Beta-proteobacterium Cupriavidus basilensis B-8 isolated from erosive bamboo slips displayed substantial KL degradation capability. With initial concentrations of 0.5–6 g L-1, at least 31.3% KL could be degraded in 7 days. The maximum degradation rate was 44.4% at the initial concentration of 2 g L-1. The optimum pH and temperature for KL degradation were 7.0 and 30[degree sign]C, respectively. Manganese peroxidase (MnP) and laccase (Lac) demonstrated their greatest level of activity, 1685.3 U L-1 and 815.6 U L-1, at the third and fourth days, respectively. Many small molecule intermediates were formed during the process of KL degradation, as determined using GC-MS analysis. In order to perform metabolic reconstruction of lignin degradation in this bacterium, a draft genome sequence for C. basilensis B-8 was generated. Genomic analysis focused on the catabolic potential of this bacterium against several lignin-derived compounds. These analyses together with sequence comparisons predicted the existence of three major metabolic pathways: beta-ketoadipate, phenol degradation, and gentisate pathways. CONCLUSION: These results confirmed the capability of C. basilensis B-8 to promote KL degradation. Whole genomic sequencing and systematic analysis of the C. basilensis B-8 genome identified degradation steps and intermediates from this bacterial-mediated KL degradation method. Our findings provide a theoretical basis for research into the mechanisms of lignin degradation as well as a practical basis for biofuel production using lignin materials.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Metabolism, Enzyme, Human Genome Project, Genome, Lignin, Metabolic pathway


Glucose stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) from pancreatic β-cells is triggered by metabolism of the sugar to increase ATP/ADP ratio that blocks the KATP channel leading to membrane depolarization and insulin exocytosis. Other metabolic pathways believed to augment insulin secretion have yet to be fully elucidated. To study metabolic changes during GSIS, liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry was used to determine levels of 87 metabolites temporally following a change in glucose from 3 mM to 10 mM glucose and in response to increasing concentrations of glucose in the INS-1 832/13 β-cell line. 13C-glucose was used to probe flux in specific metabolic pathways. Results include a rapid increase in ATP/ADP, anaplerotic tricarboxylic acid cycle flux, and increases in the malonyl CoA pathway, support prevailing theories of GSIS. Novel findings include that aspartate used for anaplerosis does not derive from the glucose fuel added to stimulate insulin secretion, glucose flux into glycerol-3-phosphate, and esterification of long chain CoAs resulting in rapid consumption of long chain CoAs and de novo generation of phosphatidic acid and diacylglycerol. Further, novel metabolites with potential roles in GSIS such as 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribotide (ZMP), GDP-mannose, and farnesyl pyrophosphate were found to be rapidly altered following glucose exposure.

Concepts: Protein, Metabolism, Insulin, Glucose, Acetyl-CoA, Citric acid cycle, Metabolic pathway, Glycolysis


Artemisinin-based therapies are the only effective treatment for malaria, the most devastating disease in human history. To meet the growing demand for artemisinin and make it accessible to the poorest, an inexpensive and rapidly scalable production platform is urgently needed. Here we have developed a new synthetic biology approach, combinatorial supertransformation of transplastomic recipient lines (COSTREL), and applied it to introduce the complete pathway for artemisinic acid, the precursor of artemisinin, into the high-biomass crop tobacco. We first introduced the core pathway of artemisinic acid biosynthesis into the chloroplast genome. The transplastomic plants were then combinatorially supertransformed with cassettes for all additional enzymes known to affect flux through the artemisinin pathway. By screening large populations of COSTREL lines, we isolated plants that produce more than 120 milligram artemisinic acid per kilogram biomass. Our work provides an efficient strategy for engineering complex biochemical pathways into plants and optimizing the metabolic output.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Organism, Chloroplast, Biochemistry, Metabolic pathway


High-energy-density, green, safe batteries are highly desirable for meeting the rapidly growing needs of portable electronics. The incomplete oxidation of sugars mediated by one or a few enzymes in enzymatic fuel cells suffers from low energy densities and slow reaction rates. Here we show that nearly 24 electrons per glucose unit of maltodextrin can be produced through a synthetic catabolic pathway that comprises 13 enzymes in an air-breathing enzymatic fuel cell. This enzymatic fuel cell is based on non-immobilized enzymes that exhibit a maximum power output of 0.8 mW cm(-2) and a maximum current density of 6 mA cm(-2), which are far higher than the values for systems based on immobilized enzymes. Enzymatic fuel cells containing a 15% (wt/v) maltodextrin solution have an energy-storage density of 596 Ah kg(-1), which is one order of magnitude higher than that of lithium-ion batteries. Sugar-powered biobatteries could serve as next-generation green power sources, particularly for portable electronics.

Concepts: Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Glucose, Starch, Citric acid cycle, Metabolic pathway, Fructose


While diet-induced obesity has been exclusively attributed to increased caloric intake from fat, animals fed a high-fat diet (HFD) ad libitum (ad lib) eat frequently throughout day and night, disrupting the normal feeding cycle. To test whether obesity and metabolic diseases result from HFD or disruption of metabolic cycles, we subjected mice to either ad lib or time-restricted feeding (tRF) of a HFD for 8 hr per day. Mice under tRF consume equivalent calories from HFD as those with ad lib access yet are protected against obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hepatic steatosis, and inflammation and have improved motor coordination. The tRF regimen improved CREB, mTOR, and AMPK pathway function and oscillations of the circadian clock and their target genes' expression. These changes in catabolic and anabolic pathways altered liver metabolome and improved nutrient utilization and energy expenditure. We demonstrate in mice that tRF regimen is a nonpharmacological strategy against obesity and associated diseases.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nutrition, Insulin, Obesity, Metabolic pathway, Dieting, Anabolism, Catabolism


Metabolic activity is intimately linked to T cell fate and function. Using high-resolution mass spectrometry, we generated dynamic metabolome and proteome profiles of human primary naive T cells following activation. We discovered critical changes in the arginine metabolism that led to a drop in intracellular L-arginine concentration. Elevating L-arginine levels induced global metabolic changes including a shift from glycolysis to oxidative phosphorylation in activated T cells and promoted the generation of central memory-like cells endowed with higher survival capacity and, in a mouse model, anti-tumor activity. Proteome-wide probing of structural alterations, validated by the analysis of knockout T cell clones, identified three transcriptional regulators (BAZ1B, PSIP1, and TSN) that sensed L-arginine levels and promoted T cell survival. Thus, intracellular L-arginine concentrations directly impact the metabolic fitness and survival capacity of T cells that are crucial for anti-tumor responses.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Oxidative phosphorylation, Cellular respiration, Metabolic pathway


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating disease that reflects a complex interplay of biochemical, biomechanical, metabolic and genetic factors, which are often triggered by injury, and mediated by inflammation, catabolic cytokines and enzymes. An unmet clinical need is the lack of reliable methods that are able to probe the pathogenesis of early OA when disease-rectifying therapies may be most effective. Non-invasive quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI) techniques have shown potential for characterizing the structural, biochemical and mechanical changes that occur with cartilage degeneration. In this paper, we review the background in articular cartilage and OA as it pertains to conventional MRI and qMRI techniques. We then discuss how conventional MRI and qMRI techniques are used in clinical and research environments to evaluate biochemical and mechanical changes associated with degeneration. Some qMRI techniques allow for the use of relaxometry values as indirect biomarkers for cartilage components. Direct characterization of mechanical behaviour of cartilage is possible via other specialized qMRI techniques. The combination of these qMRI techniques has the potential to fully characterize the biochemical and biomechanical states that represent the initial changes associated with cartilage degeneration. Additionally, knowledge of in vivo cartilage biochemistry and mechanical behaviour in healthy subjects and across a spectrum of osteoarthritic patients could lead to improvements in the detection, management and treatment of OA.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Cartilage, Osteoarthritis, Magnetic resonance imaging, Biomechanics, Metabolic pathway, Articular cartilage damage


Dabigatran etexilate (DABE) is an oral prodrug that is rapidly converted by esterases to dabigatran (DAB), a direct inhibitor of thrombin. To elucidate the esterase-mediated metabolic pathway of DABE, a high-performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry based metabolite identification and semi-quantitative estimation approach was developed. To overcome the poor full-scan sensitivity of conventional triple quadrupole mass spectrometry, precursor-product ion pairs were predicted to search for the potential in vitro metabolites. The detected metabolites were confirmed by the product ion scan. A dilution method was introduced to evaluate the matrix effects on tentatively identified metabolites without chemical standards. Quantitative information on detected metabolites was obtained using “metabolite standards” generated from incubation samples that contain a high concentration of metabolite in combination with a correction factor for mass spectrometry response. Two in vitro metabolites of DABE (M1 and M2) were identified, and quantified by the semi-quantitative estimation approach. It is noteworthy that CES1 converts DABE to M1 while CES2 mediates the conversion of DABE to M2. M1 and M2 were further metabolized to DAB by CES2 and CES1, respectively. The approach presented here provides a solution to a bioanalytical need for fast identification and semi-quantitative estimation of CES metabolites in preclinical samples.

Concepts: Metabolism, Mass spectrometry, Concentration, Metabolic pathway, Metabolomics, Quadrupole mass analyzer, Metabolome, Religious conversion