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Workflow for Integrated Processing of Multicohort Untargeted 1H NMR Metabolomics Data in Large-Scale Metabolic Epidemiology

Publication date: 

15 Sep 2016


DOI: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00125


Ibrahim Karaman, Diana L. S. Ferreira, Claire L. Boulangé, Manuja R. Kaluarachchi, David Herrington, Anthony C. Dona, Raphaële Castagné, Alireza Moayyeri, Benjamin Lehne, Marie Loh, Paul S. de Vries, Abbas Dehghan, Oscar H. Franco, Albert Hofman, Evangelos Evangelou, Ioanna Tzoulaki, Paul Elliott, John C. Lindon, and Timothy M. D. Ebbels.

Publication type: 



Large-scale metabolomics studies involving thousands of samples present multiple challenges in data analysis, particularly when an untargeted platform is used. Studies with multiple cohorts and analysis platforms exacerbate existing problems such as peak alignment and normalization. Therefore, there is a need for robust processing pipelines that can ensure reliable data for statistical analysis. The COMBI-BIO project incorporates serum from ∼8000 individuals, in three cohorts, profiled by six assays in two phases using both 1H NMR and UPLC–MS. Here we present the COMBI-BIO NMR analysis pipeline and demonstrate its fitness for purpose using representative quality control (QC) samples. NMR spectra were first aligned and normalized. After eliminating interfering signals, outliers identified using Hotelling’s T2 were removed and a cohort/phase adjustment was applied, resulting in two NMR data sets (CPMG and NOESY). Alignment of the NMR data was shown to increase the correlation-based alignment quality measure from 0.319 to 0.391 for CPMG and from 0.536 to 0.586 for NOESY, showing that the improvement was present across both large and small peaks. End-to-end quality assessment of the pipeline was achieved using Hotelling’s T2 distributions. For CPMG spectra, the interquartile range decreased from 1.425 in raw QC data to 0.679 in processed spectra, while the corresponding change for NOESY spectra was from 0.795 to 0.636, indicating an improvement in precision following processing. PCA indicated that gross phase and cohort differences were no longer present. These results illustrate that the pipeline produces robust and reproducible data, successfully addressing the methodological challenges of this large multifaceted study.