, 13:105 | Cite as

Profiling of faecal water and urine metabolites among Papua New Guinea highlanders believed to be adapted to low protein intake

  • Eriko Tomitsuka
  • Katsura Igai
  • Kiyoshi Tadokoro
  • Ayako Morita
  • Jun Baba
  • Wataru Suda
  • Andrew R. Greenhill
  • Paul F. Horwood
  • Kevin W. Soli
  • Peter M. Siba
  • Shingo Odani
  • Kazumi Natsuhara
  • Hidetoshi Morita
  • Masahiro Umezaki
Original Article



Adequate amount of proteins from foods are normally needed to maintain muscle mass of the human body. Although protein intakes of Papua New Guinea (PNG) highlanders are less than biologically adequate, protein deficiency related disorders have rarely been reported. It has been postulated that gut microbiota play a role in such low-protein-adaptation.


To explore underlying biological mechanisms of low-protein adaptation among PNG highlanders by investigating metabolomic profiles of faecal water and urine.


We performed metabolome analysis using faecal water extracted from faecal samples of PNG highlanders, PNG non-highlanders and Japanese subjects. We paid special attention to amino acids and other metabolites produced by gut microbiota, as well as to metabolites involved in nitrogen recycling in the human gut.


Our results indicated that amino acid levels were higher in faecal water from PNG highlanders than PNG non-highlanders, but amino acid levels did not differ between PNG highlanders and Japanese subjects. Among PNG highlander samples, amino acid levels tended to be higher in those who consumed less protein.


We speculated that a greater proportion of urea was excreted to the intestine among the PNG highlanders than other groups, and that the urea was used for nitrogen salvage. Intestinal bacteria are essential for producing ammonia from urea and also for producing amino acids from ammonia, which is a key process in low-protein adaptation. Profiling the gut microbiota of PNG highlanders is an important avenue for further research into the mechanisms of low-protein adaptation.


Gut microbiota Metabolomics CE-TOFMS 



This work was supported by the Funding Program for Next Generation World-Leading Researchers (LS024), Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (15H04430), Takeda Science Foundation, and the TANITA Healthy Weight Community Trust.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors state no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo (10188), the Institutional review Board of the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (1025), and the Medical Research Advisory Board of Papua New Guinea (07.18, 11.16).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11306_2017_1243_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (59 kb)
Scatter plot between the first and the second principal components obtained from principle component analysis for 228 metabolites identified in urinary samples. Closed circles indicate PNG highlanders samples (n=6), open circles indicate PNG non-highlanders samples (n=4). Percentages of variation explained by the first component and the second component are shown. Supplementary Material 1 (PPTX 58 KB)
11306_2017_1243_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (91 kb)
Supplementary Material 2 (XLSX 91 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eriko Tomitsuka
    • 1
    • 2
  • Katsura Igai
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kiyoshi Tadokoro
    • 1
    • 4
  • Ayako Morita
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jun Baba
    • 6
  • Wataru Suda
    • 7
  • Andrew R. Greenhill
    • 8
  • Paul F. Horwood
    • 8
  • Kevin W. Soli
    • 8
  • Peter M. Siba
    • 8
  • Shingo Odani
    • 9
  • Kazumi Natsuhara
    • 10
  • Hidetoshi Morita
    • 11
  • Masahiro Umezaki
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Ecology, Graduate School of MedicineThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Health Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmaceutical SciencesNiigata University of Pharmacy and Applied SciencesNiigata CityJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Biomedical SciencesNagasaki UniversitySakamotoJapan
  4. 4.Department of Resource Policy and Management, Faculty of International Resource SciencesAkita UniversityAkita CityJapan
  5. 5.Department of Global Health PromotionTokyo Medical and Dental UniversityTokyoJapan
  6. 6.Faculty of Human SciencesWako UniversityMachida CityJapan
  7. 7.IMS RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical SciencesYokoham CityJapan
  8. 8.Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical ResearchGorokaPapua New Guinea
  9. 9.Faculty of LettersChiba UniversityChibaJapan
  10. 10.The Japanese Red Cross Akita College of NursingAkita CityJapan
  11. 11.Graduate School of Environmental and Life ScienceOkayama UniversityOkayama CityJapan

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