Overview of the study’s focus on genetic studies of paired plasma and urine metabolomes

A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Freiburg sheds light on the genetic underpinnings of metabolic processes in the kidneys. The researchers, from the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology at the Medical Center, examined metabolites in blood and urine samples from over 5,000 study participants. The aim was to understand the intricate relationship between genetics, metabolites, and diseases.

New Research Reveals Insights into Kidney Metabolic Processes

The findings, published in Nature Genetics on June 5, 2023, offer a better understanding of metabolic processes in the body. They have the potential to pave the way for new approaches to disease treatment.

Description of the research conducted by the scientists

By conducting genome-wide studies of 1,916 plasma and urine metabolites, the researchers identified 1,299 significant associations between metabolites and genetic changes. 40% of these associations would have been missed if only plasma had been studied. This highlights the importance of analyzing both plasma and urine metabolomes to gain a comprehensive understanding of metabolic processes at the interface of plasma and urine.

Key Findings

The integration of blood plasma and urine analyses yielded crucial insights into metabolic changes specific to the kidneys. For instance, the researchers identified the role of aquaporin (AQP)-7-mediated glycerol transport in metabolite reabsorption in the kidneys.

Furthermore, they discovered distinct metabolomic footprints of kidney-expressed proteins in both plasma and urine, consistent with their localization and function. This included the transporters NaDC3 (SLC13A3) and ASBT (SLC10A2). These urine-specific findings provide valuable information about the intricate processes involved in metabolite transport and reabsorption within the kidneys.

The study revealed shared genetic determinants of 7,073 metabolite-disease combinations. This represents a valuable resource for gaining insights into metabolic diseases and their underlying genetic factors.

Notably, the study identified connections between dipeptidase 1 and both circulating digestive enzymes and hypertension. This knowledge contributes to a better understanding of these diseases and may guide future research and treatment options.

Implications and Applications

The implications of this study for disease understanding and treatment are substantial. The insights gained into metabolic diseases and their genetic underpinnings lay the foundation for the development of innovative treatment approaches. One such example is the use of SGLT2 inhibitors, a new class of therapies for diabetes treatment. These inhibitors work by targeting a metabolite transporter in the kidney, a mechanism elucidated by this study.

Prof. Dr. Anna Köttgen, Director of the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology at the Medical Center emphasized the significance of the study’s insights. She highlighted how this research opens new doors for understanding metabolism and its relationship to health. Prof. Köttgen, a member of the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS – Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies at the University of Freiburg, underscored the value of this study in advancing health and disease research.

Discoveries Beyond Kidney Metabolism

Conducting a large-scale association study presented unique challenges for the researchers, including the analysis of extensive data and the understanding of complex genetic relationships. Dr. Pascal Schlosser, the first author of the study, explained that the comparison of metabolites from plasma and urine samples, known as multi-matrix analysis, is time-consuming but invaluable. This approach allowed the researchers to differentiate metabolic changes specific to the kidneys from those distributed throughout the body. It will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of human metabolic processes.

Interestingly, the study also identified an enzyme called DPEP1 with functions beyond the kidneys. Increased activity of DPEP1 was associated with a higher risk of osteoarthritis but a lower risk of hypertension, highlighting its involvement in various physiological processes throughout the body. These findings underscore the importance of considering the potential side effects of new drugs during their development.


In conclusion, this groundbreaking study significantly advances our understanding of metabolic processes in the kidneys. By integrating genetic studies of paired plasma and urine metabolomes, the researchers have unraveled intricate enzymatic and transport processes at the interface of plasma and urine.

These findings have important implications for disease research and treatment options, providing insights into metabolic diseases and genetic connections to various health conditions. The researchers encourage further exploration in this field. Genetic studies of paired metabolomes have the potential to revolutionize our understanding and management of diseases.

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