Targeted Metabolomic Analysis of Serum Fatty Acids for the Prediction of Autoimmune Diseases

Dimitris Tsoukalas, Vassileios Fragoulakis, Evangelia Sarandi, Anca Oana Docea, Evangelos Papakonstaninou, Gerasimos Tsilimidos, Chrysanthi Anamaterou, Persefoni Fragkiadaki, Michael Aschner, Aristidis Tsatsakis, Nikolaos Drakoulis, Daniela Calina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Autoimmune diseases (ADs) are rapidly increasing worldwide and accumulating data support a key role of disrupted metabolism in ADs. This study aimed to identify an improved combination of Total Fatty Acids (TFAs) biomarkers as a predictive factor for the presence of autoimmune diseases. A retrospective nested case-control study was conducted in 403 individuals. In the case group, 240 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, vitiligo, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other AD were included and compared to 163 healthy individuals. Targeted metabolomic analysis of serum TFAs was performed using GC-MS, and 28 variables were used as input for the predictive models. The primary analysis identified 12 variables that were statistically significantly different between the two groups, and metabolite-metabolite correlation analysis revealed 653 significant correlation coefficients with 90% level of significance (p < 0.05). Three predictive models were developed, namely (a) a logistic regression based on Principal Component Analysis (PCA), (b) a straightforward logistic regression model and (c) an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) model. PCA and straightforward logistic regression analysis, indicated reasonably well adequacy (74.7 and 78.9%, respectively). For the ANN, a model using two hidden layers and 11 variables was developed, resulting in 76.2% total predictive accuracy. The models identified important biomarkers: lauric acid (C12:0), myristic acid (C14:0), stearic acid (C18:0), lignoceric acid (C24:0), palmitic acid (C16:0) and heptadecanoic acid (C17:0) among saturated fatty acids, Cis-10-pentadecanoic acid (C15:1), Cis-11-eicosenoic acid (C20:1n9), and erucic acid (C22:1n9) among monounsaturated fatty acids and the Gamma-linolenic acid (C18:3n6) polyunsaturated fatty acid. The metabolic pathways of the candidate biomarkers are discussed in relation to ADs. The findings indicate that the metabolic profile of serum TFAs is associated with the presence of ADs and can be an adjunct tool for the early diagnosis of ADs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • autoimmune diseases
  • biomarkers
  • inflammation
  • metabolomics
  • total fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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