NMR Metabolomics Reveal Urine Markers of Microbiome Diversity and Identify Benzoate Metabolism as a Mediator between High Microbial Alpha Diversity and Metabolic Health.


Johannes Hertel, Daniel Fässler, Almut Heinken, Frank U Weiß, Malte Rühlemann, Corinna Bang, Andre Franke, Kathrin Budde, Ann-Kristin Henning, Astrid Petersmann, Uwe Völker, Henry Völzke, Ines Thiele, Hans-Jörgen Grabe, Markus M Lerch, Matthias Nauck, Nele Friedrich, Fabian Frost

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Microbial metabolites measured using NMR may serve as markers for physiological or pathological host-microbe interactions and possibly mediate the beneficial effects of microbiome diversity. Yet, comprehensive analyses of gut microbiome data and the urine NMR metabolome from large general population cohorts are missing. Here, we report the associations between gut microbiota abundances or metrics of alpha diversity, quantified from stool samples using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, with targeted urine NMR metabolites measures from 951 participants of the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP). We detected significant genus-metabolite associations for hippurate, succinate, indoxyl sulfate, and formate. Moreover, while replicating the previously reported association between hippurate and measures of alpha diversity, we identified formate and 4-hydroxyphenylacetate as novel markers of gut microbiome alpha diversity. Next, we predicted the urinary concentrations of each metabolite using genus abundances via an elastic net regression methodology. We found profound associations of the microbiome-based hippurate prediction score with markers of liver injury, inflammation, and metabolic health. Moreover, the microbiome-based prediction score for hippurate completely mediated the clinical association pattern of microbial diversity, hinting at a role of benzoate metabolism underlying the positive associations between high alpha diversity and healthy states. In conclusion, large-scale NMR urine metabolomics delivered novel insights into metabolic host-microbiome interactions, identifying pathways of benzoate metabolism as relevant candidates mediating the beneficial health effects of high microbial alpha diversity.