Controlling the confounding effect of metabolic gene expression to identify actual metabolite targets in microsatellite instability cancers

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Background: The metabolome is the best representation of cancer phenotypes. Gene expression can be considered a confounding covariate affecting metabolite levels. Data integration across metabolomics and genomics to establish the biological relevance of cancer metabolism is challenging. This study aimed to eliminate the confounding effect of metabolic gene expression to reflect actual metabolite levels in microsatellite instability (MSI) cancers. Methods: In this study, we propose a new strategy using covariate-adjusted tensor classification in high dimensions (CATCH) models to integrate metabolite and metabolic gene expression data to classify MSI and microsatellite stability (MSS) cancers. We used datasets from the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE) phase II project and treated metabolomic data as tensor predictors and data on gene expression of metabolic enzymes as confounding covariates. Results: The CATCH model performed well, with high accuracy (0.82), sensitivity (0.66), specificity (0.88), precision (0.65), and F1 score (0.65). Seven metabolite features adjusted for metabolic gene expression, namely, 3-phosphoglycerate, 6-phosphogluconate, cholesterol ester, lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE), phosphatidylcholine, reduced glutathione, and sarcosine, were found in MSI cancers. Only one metabolite, Hippurate, was present in MSS cancers. The gene expression of phosphofructokinase 1 (PFKP), which is involved in the glycolytic pathway, was related to 3-phosphoglycerate. ALDH4A1 and GPT2 were associated with sarcosine. LPE was associated with the expression of CHPT1, which is involved in lipid metabolism. The glycolysis, nucleotide, glutamate, and lipid metabolic pathways were enriched in MSI cancers. Conclusions: We propose an effective CATCH model for predicting MSI cancer status. By controlling the confounding effect of metabolic gene expression, we identified cancer metabolic biomarkers and therapeutic targets. In addition, we provided the possible biology and genetics of MSI cancer metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalHuman Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Drug Discovery


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