Untargeted metabolomic analysis and pathway discovery in perinatal asphyxia and hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Niamh Denihan
  • Brian Walsh
  • David Broadhurst
  • Geraldine Boylan
  • Deirdre Murray

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Neonatal Brain Research Group, University College Cork
  • Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, University College Cork
  • Division of Newborn Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  • School of Science, Edith Cowan University


Elucidating metabolic effects of hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) may reveal early biomarkers of injury and new treatment targets. This study uses untargeted metabolomics to examine early metabolic alterations in a carefully defined neonatal population. Infants with perinatal asphyxia who were resuscitated at birth and recovered (PA group), those who developed HIE (HIE group) and healthy controls were all recruited at birth. Metabolomic analysis of cord blood was performed using direct infusion FT-ICR mass spectrometry. For each reproducibly detected metabolic feature, mean fold differences were calculated HIE vs. controls (ΔHIE) and PA vs. controls (ΔPA). Putative metabolite annotations were assigned and pathway analysis was performed. Twenty-nine putatively annotated metabolic features were significantly different in ΔPA after false discovery correction ( q < 0.05), with eight of these also significantly altered in ΔHIE. Altered putative metabolites included; melatonin, leucine, kynurenine and 3-hydroxydodecanoic acid which differentiated between infant groups (ΔPA and ΔHIE); and D-erythrose-phosphate, acetone, 3-oxotetradecanoic acid and methylglutarylcarnitine which differentiated across severity grades of HIE. Pathway analysis revealed ΔHIE was associated with a 50% and 75% perturbation of tryptophan and pyrimidine metabolism, respectively. We have identified perturbed metabolic pathways and potential biomarkers specific to PA and HIE, which measured at birth, may help direct treatment.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Early online date25 Aug 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Aug 2017


  • metabolomics , perinatal asphyxia , hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy , metabolic pathway , biomarker