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1H NMR metabolomic analysis of skin and blubber of bottlenose dolphins reveals a functional metabolic dichotomy

Misra, Biswapriya B., Ruiz-Hernández, Ixchel Mariel, Hernández-Bolio, Gloria Ivonne, Hernández-Núñez, Emanuel, Díaz-Gamboa, Raúl, Colli-Dula, Reyna Cristina
Comparative biochemistry and physiology 2019 v.30 pp. 25-32
Tursiops truncatus, acetic acid, aquatic food webs, arginine, bioaccumulation, biopsy, blubber, carnivores, coasts, dolphins, ecotoxicology, environmental impact, estuaries, fatty acid metabolism, glutathione, heat, marine ecosystems, marine environment, metabolites, metabolome, metabolomics, monitoring, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, ornithine, pollutants, pollution, predators, pyruvic acid, urea cycle, Mexico
The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is a carnivorous cetacean that thrives in marine environments, one of the apex predators of the marine food web. They are found in coastal and estuarine ecosystems, which are known to be sensitive to environmental impacts. Dolphins are considered sentinel organisms for monitoring the health of coastal marine ecosystems due to their role as predators that can bioaccumulate contaminants. Although recent studies have focused on capturing the circulating metabolomes of these mammals, and in the context of pollutants and exposures in the marine environment, skin and blubber are important surface and protective tissues that have not been adequately probed for metabolism. Using a proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H NMR) based metabolomics approach, we quantified 51 metabolites belonging to 74 different metabolic pathways in the skin and blubber of stranded bottlenose dolphin (n = 4) samples collected at different localities in the Southern Zone coast of Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Results indicate that metabolism of skin and blubber are quantitatively very different. These metabolite abundances could help discriminate the tissue-types using supervised partial least square regression discriminant analysis (PLSDA). Further, using hierarchical clustering analysis and random forest analysis of the metabolite abundances, the results pointed to unique metabolites that are important classifiers of the tissue-type. On one hand, the differential metabolic patterns, mainly linking fatty acid metabolism and ketogenic amino acids, seem to constitute a characteristic of blubber, thus pointing to fat synthesis and deposition. On the other hand, the skin showed several metabolites involved in gluconeogenic pathways, pointing towards an active anabolic energy-generating metabolism. The most notable pathways found in both tissues included: urea cycle, nucleotide metabolism, amino acid metabolism, glutathione metabolism among others. Our 1H NMR metabolomics analysis allowed the quantification of metabolites associated with these two organs, i.e., pyruvic acid, arginine, ornithine, 2-hydroxybutyric acid, 3-hydroxyisobutyric acid, and acetic acid, as discriminatory and classifying metabolites. These results would lead to further understanding of the functional and physiological roles of dolphin skin and blubber metabolism for better efforts in their conservation, as well as useful target biopsy tissues for monitoring of dolphin health conditions in marine pollution and ecotoxicology studies.