, 14:90 | Cite as

Non-invasive urinary metabolomic profiles discriminate biliary atresia from infantile hepatitis syndrome

  • Wei-Wei Li
  • Yan Yang
  • Qi-Gang Dai
  • Li-Li Lin
  • Tong Xie
  • Li-Li He
  • Jia-Lei Tao
  • Jin-Jun ShanEmail author
  • Shou-Chuan WangEmail author
Original Article



Neonatal cholestatic disorders are a group of hepatobiliary diseases occurring in the first 3 months of life. The most common causes of neonatal cholestasis are infantile hepatitis syndrome (IHS) and biliary atresia (BA). The clinical manifestations of the two diseases are too similar to distinguish them. However, early detection is very important in improving the clinical outcome of BA. Currently, a liver biopsy is the only proven and effective method used to differentially diagnose these two similar diseases in the clinic. However, this method is invasive. Therefore, sensitive and non-invasive biomarkers are needed to effectively differentiate between BA and IHS. We hypothesized that urinary metabolomics can produce unique metabolite profiles for BA and IHS.


The aim of this study was to characterize urinary metabolomic profiles in infants with BA and IHS, and to identify differences among infants with BA, IHS, and normal controls (NC).


Urine samples along with patient characteristics were obtained from 25 BA, 38 IHS, and 38 NC infants. A non-targeted gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) metabolomics method was used in conjunction with orthogonal partial least squares discriminant analysis (OPLS-DA) to explore the metabolomic profiles of BA, IHS, and NC infants.


In total, 41 differentially expressed metabolites between BA vs. NC, IHS vs. NC, and BA vs. IHS were identified. N-acetyl-d-mannosamine and alpha-aminoadipic acid were found to be highly accurate at distinguishing between BA and IHS.


BA and IHS infants have specific urinary metabolomic profiles. The results of our study underscore the clinical potential of metabolomic profiling to uncover metabolic changes that could be used to discriminate BA from IHS.


Biomarkers Metabolomics Biliary atresia Infantile hepatitis syndrome Urine 



This work is supported by Natural Science Foundation of China (81473725 and 81373688) and Postgraduate Research & Practice Innovation Program of Jiangsu Province (KYCX18_1550). In addition, Wei-Wei Li especially wishes to thank Ji-Xuan He for his support over the past decade.

Author contributions

YY, SJJ and WSC designed the experiments. LWW and HLL involved in taking ethical clearance, collecting samples and managing their clinical details. LWW, DQG and TJL supervised GC–MS experiments. LWW, WSC, SJJ, XT and LLL contributed the reagents/materials/analysis tools, analysed the data and prepared the gures. LWW wrote the main manuscript. SJJ and WSC evaluated the manuscript critically and all the authors reviewed the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the ethics committee of Beijing Children’s Hospital, Beijing, China. All protocols and procedures were adhered to institutional ethical standards and/or research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Prior informed consent was obtained from all the participants in the study with institutional review approval.

Supplementary material

11306_2018_1387_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17582 KB)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei-Wei Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yan Yang
    • 3
  • Qi-Gang Dai
    • 1
  • Li-Li Lin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tong Xie
    • 1
    • 2
  • Li-Li He
    • 4
  • Jia-Lei Tao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jin-Jun Shan
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Shou-Chuan Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsAffiliated Hospital of Nanjing University of Chinese MedicineNanjingChina
  2. 2.Medical Metabolomics CenterNanjing University of Chinese MedicineNanjingChina
  3. 3.TCM DepartmentBeijing Children’s Hospital Affiliated to Capital Medical UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.Affiliated Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western MedicineNanjing University of Chinese MedicineNanjingChina

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