The carnitine shuttle pathway is altered in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration

Sabrina L. Mitchell, Karan Uppal, Samantha M. Williamson, Ken Liu, L. Goodwin Burgess, Vilinh Tran, Allison C. Umfress, Kelli L. Jarrell, Jessica N. Cooke Bailey, Anita Agarwal, Margaret Pericak-Vance, Jonathan L. Haines, William K. Scott, Dean P. Jones, Milam A. Brantley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. To identify metabolites and metabolic pathways altered in neovascular age-related macular degeneration (NVAMD). METHODS. We performed metabolomics analysis using high-resolution C18 liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry on plasma samples from 100 NVAMD patients and 192 controls. Data for mass/charge ratio ranging from 85 to 850 were captured, and metabolic features were extracted using xMSanalyzer. Nested feature selection was used to identify metabolites that discriminated between NVAMD patients and controls. Pathway analysis was performed with Mummichog 2.0. Hierarchical clustering was used to examine the relationship between the discriminating metabolites and NVAMD patients and controls. RESULTS. Of the 10,917 metabolic features analyzed, a set of 159 was identified that distinguished NVAMD patients from controls (area under the curve of 0.83). Of these features, 39 were annotated with confidence and included multiple carnitine metabolites. Pathway analysis revealed that the carnitine shuttle pathway was significantly altered in NVAMD patients (P = 0.0001). Tandem mass spectrometry confirmed the molecular identity of five carnitine shuttle pathway acylcarnitine intermediates that were increased in NVAMD patients. Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed that 51% of the NVAMD patients had similar metabolic profiles, whereas the remaining 49% displayed greater variability in their metabolic profiles. CONCLUSIONS. Multiple long-chain acylcarnitines that are part of the carnitine shuttle pathway were significantly increased in NVAMD patients compared to controls, suggesting that fatty acid metabolism may be involved in NVAMD pathophysiology. Cluster analysis suggested that clinically indistinguishable NVAMD patients can be separated into distinct subgroups based on metabolic profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4978-4985
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Carnitine shuttle
  • Long-chain acylcarnitines
  • Metabolomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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