Metabolomic analysis of male combat veterans with post traumatic stress disorder

Synthia H. Mellon, F. Saverio Bersani, Daniel Lindqvist, Rasha Hammamieh, Duncan Donohue, Kelsey Dean, Marti Jett, Rachel Yehuda, Janine Flory, Victor I. Reus, Linda M. Bierer, Iouri Makotkine, Duna Abu Amara, Clare Henn Haase, Michelle Coy, Francis J. Doyle, Charles Marmar, Owen M. Wolkowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with impaired major domains of psychology and behavior. Individuals with PTSD also have increased co-morbidity with several serious medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, raising the possibility that systemic pathology associated with PTSD might be identified by metabolomic analysis of blood. We sought to identify metabolites that are altered in male combat veterans with PTSD. In this case-control study, we compared metabolomic profiles from age-matched male combat trauma-exposed veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with PTSD (n = 52) and without PTSD (n = 51) (‘Discovery group’). An additional group of 31 PTSD-positive and 31 PTSD-negative male combat-exposed veterans was used for validation of these findings (‘Test group’). Plasma metabolite profiles were measured in all subjects using ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. We identified key differences between PTSD subjects and controls in pathways related to glycolysis and fatty acid uptake and metabolism in the initial ‘Discovery group’, consistent with mitochondrial alterations or dysfunction, which were also confirmed in the ‘Test group’. Other pathways related to urea cycle and amino acid metabolism were different between PTSD subjects and controls in the ‘Discovery’ but not in the smaller ‘Test’ group. These metabolic differences were not explained by comorbid major depression, body mass index, blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, smoking, or use of analgesics, antidepressants, statins, or anti-inflammatories. These data show replicable, wide-ranging changes in the metabolic profile of combat-exposed males with PTSD, with a suggestion of mitochondrial alterations or dysfunction, that may contribute to the behavioral and somatic phenotypes associated with this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0213839
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Mar 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychiatry


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