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Environ Health Perspect. 2019 May;127(5):57010. doi: 10.1289/EHP3705. Epub 2019 May 29.

Metabolomics Profiling before, during, and after the Beijing Olympics: A Panel Study of Within-Individual Differences during Periods of High and Low Air Pollution.

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Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA.
Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA.
Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York, USA.
Department of Biotechnical and Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA.
Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing, China.



The metabolome is a collection of exogenous chemicals and metabolites from cellular processes that may reflect the body's response to environmental exposures. Studies of air pollution and metabolomics are limited.


To explore changes in the human metabolome before, during, and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, when air pollution was high, low, and high, respectively.


Serum samples were collected before, during, and after the Olympics from 26 participants in an existing panel study. Gas and ultra-high performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry were used in metabolomics analysis. Repeated measures ANOVA, network analysis, and enrichment analysis methods were employed to identify metabolites and classes associated with air pollution changes.


A total of 886 molecules were measured in our metabolomics analysis. Network partitioning identified four modules with 65 known metabolites that significantly changed across the three time points. All known molecules in the first module ([Formula: see text]) were lipids (e.g., eicosapentaenoic acid, stearic acid). The second module consisted primarily of dipeptides ([Formula: see text], e.g., isoleucylglycine) plus 8 metabolites from four other classes (e.g., hypoxanthine, 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid). Most of the metabolites in Modules 3 (19 of 23) and 4 (5 of 5) were unknown. Enrichment analysis of module-identified metabolites indicted significantly overrepresented pathways, including long- and medium-chain fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3 and n6), eicosanoids, lysolipid, dipeptides, fatty acid metabolism, and purine metabolism [(hypo) xanthine/inosine-containing pathways].


We identified two major metabolic signatures: one consisting of lipids, and a second that included dipeptides, polyunsaturated fatty acids, taurine, and xanthine. Metabolites in both groups decreased during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when air pollution was low, and increased after the Olympics, when air pollution returned to normal (high) levels.

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