Gene Expression Studies and Targeted Metabolomics Reveal Disturbed Serine, Methionine, and Tyrosine Metabolism in Early Hypertensive Nephrosclerosis

Marius A. Øvrehus, Per Bruheim, Wenjun Ju, Leila R. Zelnick, Knut A. Langlo, Kumar Sharma, Ian H. de Boer, Stein I. Hallan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: Hypertensive nephrosclerosis is among the leading causes of end-stage renal disease, but its pathophysiology is poorly understood. We wanted to explore early metabolic changes using gene expression and targeted metabolomics analysis. Methods: We analyzed gene expression in kidneys biopsied from 20 patients with nephrosclerosis and 31 healthy controls with an Affymetrix array. Thirty-one amino acids were measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in urine samples from 62 patients with clinical hypertensive nephrosclerosis and 33 age- and sex-matched healthy controls, and major findings were confirmed in an independent cohort of 45 cases and 15 controls. Results: Amino acid catabolism and synthesis were strongly underexpressed in hypertensive nephrosclerosis (13- and 7-fold, respectively), and these patients also showed gene expression patterns indicating decreased fatty acid oxidation (12-fold) and increased interferon gamma (10-fold) and cellular defense response (8-fold). Metabolomics analysis revealed significant distribution differences in 11 amino acids in hypertensive nephrosclerosis, among them tyrosine, phenylalanine, dopamine, homocysteine, and serine, with 30% to 70% lower urine excretion. These findings were replicated in the independent cohort. Integrated gene-metabolite pathway analysis showed perturbations of renal dopamine biosynthesis. There were also significant differences in homocysteine/methionine homeostasis and the serine pathway, which have strong influence on 1-carbon metabolism. Several of these disturbances could be interconnected through reduced regeneration of tetrahydrofolate and tetrahydrobiopterin. Conclusion: Early hypertensive nephrosclerosis showed perturbations of intrarenal biosynthesis of dopamine, which regulates natriuresis and blood pressure. There were also disturbances in serine/glycine and methionine/homocysteine metabolism, which may contribute to endothelial dysfunction, atherosclerosis, and renal fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-333
Number of pages13
JournalKidney International Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • amino acids
  • gene expression
  • hypertensive nephropathy
  • metabolomics
  • nephrosclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Nephrology


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