Thanatometabolomics: introducing NMR-based metabolomics to identify metabolic biomarkers of the time of death
2019-12-17T16:39:55Z (GMT) by
INTRODUCTION: Death is the permanent cessation of the critical functions of the organism as a whole. However, the shutdown of a complex biological organism does not abruptly terminate at time of death. New high-throughput technologies allow the systematic investigation of the biochemical modulations occurring after death. Recent genomics studies have demonstrated that genes remain active after death, triggering upregulation of some genes and initiating feedback loops. These genes were mostly involved in pathways related to immunity, inflammation and cancer. These genetic modulations suggest many biochemical events persist after death, which can be captured using a metabolomics approach. OBJECTIVES: This proof of concept work aimed to determine whether NMR spectroscopy could identify metabolomics changes occurring after death, and characterise the nature of these metabolomics modulations. METHODS: High-resolution 1H-NMR spectroscopy was applied to six biological matrices: heart, kidney, liver, spleen, skin and white adipose tissue of ten adult mice at three different type points. RESULTS: Forty-three metabolites were associated with post mortem metabolomics modulations. Kidney, heart and spleen showed the highest metabolic perturbations. Conversely, skin and white adipose tissue were the least altered matrices. Early metabolic modulations were associated with energy metabolism and DNA synthesis, by contrast, late metabolomics modulations were associated with microbial metabolism. CONCLUSIONS: NMR has proven potential to determine the time of death based on post-mortem metabolomics modulations. This could be useful in the context of transplants, forensic studies and as internal quality control in metabolomics studies. Further investigations are required to validate these findings in humans in order to determine which compounds robustly reflect post-mortem metabolic fluctuations to accurately determine the time of death.