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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 28;10(8):e0136904. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136904. eCollection 2015.

Exploratory Metabolomic Analyses Reveal Compounds Correlated with Lutein Concentration in Frontal Cortex, Hippocampus, and Occipital Cortex of Human Infant Brain.

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Research and Development, Abbott Nutrition, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America.
Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Jean Mayer United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Metabolon, Incorporated, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America.


Lutein is a dietary carotenoid well known for its role as an antioxidant in the macula, and recent reports implicate a role for lutein in cognitive function. Lutein is the dominant carotenoid in both pediatric and geriatric brain tissue. In addition, cognitive function in older adults correlated with macular and postmortem brain lutein concentrations. Furthermore, lutein was found to preferentially accumulate in the infant brain in comparison to other carotenoids that are predominant in diet. While lutein is consistently related to cognitive function, the mechanisms by which lutein may influence cognition are not clear. In an effort to identify potential mechanisms through which lutein might influence neurodevelopment, an exploratory study relating metabolite signatures and lutein was completed. Post-mortem metabolomic analyses were performed on human infant brain tissues in three regions important for learning and memory: the frontal cortex, hippocampus, and occipital cortex. Metabolomic profiles were compared to lutein concentration, and correlations were identified and reported here. A total of 1276 correlations were carried out across all brain regions. Of 427 metabolites analyzed, 257 were metabolites of known identity. Unidentified metabolite correlations (510) were excluded. In addition, moderate correlations with xenobiotic relationships (2) or those driven by single outliers (3) were excluded from further study. Lutein concentrations correlated with lipid pathway metabolites, energy pathway metabolites, brain osmolytes, amino acid neurotransmitters, and the antioxidant homocarnosine. These correlations were often brain region-specific. Revealing relationships between lutein and metabolic pathways may help identify potential candidates on which to complete further analyses and may shed light on important roles of lutein in the human brain during development.

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