, 14:94 | Cite as

Metabolite and gene expression profiles suggest a putative mechanism through which high dietary carbohydrates reduce the content of hepatic betaine in Megalobrama amblycephala

  • Jia Xu
  • Fan Wang
  • Ivan Jakovlić
  • Wassana Prisingkorn
  • Jun-Tao Li
  • Wei-Min Wang
  • Yu-Hua ZhaoEmail author
Original Article



High-carbohydrate diets (HCD) are favoured by the aquaculture industry for economic reasons, but they can produce negative impacts on growth and induce hepatic steatosis. We hypothesised that the mechanism behind this is the reduction of hepatic betaine content.


We further explored this mechanism by supplementing betaine (1%) to the diet of a farmed fish Megalobrama amblycephala.


Four diet groups were designed: control (CD, 27.11% carbohydrates), high-carbohydrate (HCD, 36.75% carbohydrates), long-term betaine (LBD, 35.64% carbohydrates) and short-term betaine diet (SBD; 12 weeks HCD + 4 weeks LBD). We analysed growth performance, body composition, liver condition, and expression of genes and profiles of metabolites associated with betaine metabolism.


HCD resulted in poorer growth and liver health (compared to CD), whereas LBD improved these parameters (compared to HCD). HCD induced the expression of genes associated with glucose, serine and cystathionine metabolisms, and (non-significantly, p = .20) a betaine-catabolizing enzyme betaine-homocysteine-methyltransferase; and decreased the content of betaine, methionine, S-adenosylhomocysteine and carnitine. Betaine supplementation (LBD) reversed these patterns, and elevated betaine-homocysteine-methyltransferase, S-adenosylmethionine and S-adenosylhomocysteine (all p ≤ .05).


We hypothesise that HCD reduced the content of hepatic betaine by enhancing the activity of metabolic pathways from glucose to homocysteine, reflected in increased glycolysis, serine metabolism, cystathionine metabolism and homocysteine remethylation. Long-term dietary betaine supplementation improved the negative impacts of HCD, inculding growth parameters, body composition, liver condition, and betaine metabolism. However, betaine supplementation may have caused a temporary disruption in the metabolic homeostasis.


Fish Wuchang bream Growth performance Betaine catabolism Liver health 



We would like to thank the members of College of Fisheries Huazhong Agricultural University, Key Lab of Freshwater Animal Breeding, Key Lab of Agricultural Animal Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction of Ministry of Education, Freshwater Aquaculture Collaborative Innovation Center of Hubei Province, Ministry of Agriculture and Beijing Mass Spectrometry Medical Research Co. Ltd. for technical help.

Author Contributions

The authors’ responsibilities were as follows: YHZ and JTL conceptualized the study; JX and FW conducted research; YHZ and WMW provided the materials; PW, JX and FW collected the data; JX and IJ analyzed and interpreted the data; JX, YHZ and IJ wrote the manuscript; JX had primary responsibility for the final content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31401976).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors, Jia Xu, Fan Wang, Ivan Jakovlić, Wassana Prisingkorn, Jun-Tao Li, Wei-Min Wang, and Yu-Hua Zhao, declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Efforts were made to minimize suffering as much as possible, and all animals were handled and experimental procedures conducted in accordance with the guidelines for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes set by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Beijing, China (No. 398, 2006). The study was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Ethics Committee of Huazhong Agricultural University. The permit number for conducting animal experiments of the Huazhong Agricultural University is SCXK (Hubei) 2015–0019.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Fisheries Huazhong Agricultural University, Key Lab of Freshwater Animal Breeding, Ministry of Agriculture, Key Lab of Agricultural Animal Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction of Ministry of EducationFreshwater Aquaculture Collaborative Innovation Center of Hubei ProvinceWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Bio-Transduction LabWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Institute of Tropical Bioscience and BiotechnologyHaikouPeople’s Republic of China

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