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PLoS One. 2013 May 21;8(5):e64433. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064433. Print 2013.

Metabolomics tools for describing complex pesticide exposure in pregnant women in Brittany (France).

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National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) UMR 1085 IRSET (Research Institute for Environmental and Occupational Health), Rennes, France.



The use of pesticides and the related environmental contaminations can lead to human exposure to various molecules. In early-life, such exposures could be responsible for adverse developmental effects. However, human health risks associated with exposure to complex mixtures are currently under-explored.


THIS PROJECT AIMS AT ANSWERING THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS: What is the influence of exposures to multiple pesticides on the metabolome? What mechanistic pathways could be involved in the metabolic changes observed?


Based on the PELAGIE cohort (Brittany, France), 83 pregnant women who provided a urine sample in early pregnancy, were classified in 3 groups according to the surface of land dedicated to agricultural cereal activities in their town of residence. Nuclear magnetic resonance-based metabolomics analyses were performed on urine samples. Partial Least Squares Regression-Discriminant Analysis (PLS-DA) and polytomous regressions were used to separate the urinary metabolic profiles from the 3 exposure groups after adjusting for potential confounders.


The 3 groups of exposure were correctly separated with a PLS-DA model after implementing an orthogonal signal correction with pareto standardizations (R2 = 90.7% and Q2 = 0.53). After adjusting for maternal age, parity, body mass index and smoking habits, the most statistically significant changes were observed for glycine, threonine, lactate and glycerophosphocholine (upward trend), and for citrate (downward trend).


This work suggests that an exposure to complex pesticide mixtures induces modifications of metabolic fingerprints. It can be hypothesized from identified discriminating metabolites that the pesticide mixtures could increase oxidative stress and disturb energy metabolism.

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