Liver metabolomics in a mouse model of erythropoietic protoporphyria

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Graphical abstractErythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) is a genetic disease that results from the defective mutation in the gene encoding ferrochelatase (FECH), the enzyme that converts protoporphyrin IX (PPIX) to heme. Liver injury and even liver failure can occur in EPP patients because of PPIX accumulation in the liver. The current study profiled the liver metabolome in an EPP mouse model caused by a Fech mutation (Fech-mut). As expected, we observed the accumulation of PPIX in the liver of Fech-mut mice. In addition, our metabolomic analysis revealed the accumulation of bile acids and ceramide (Cer) in the liver of Fech-mut mice. High levels of bile acids and Cer are toxic to the liver. Furthermore, we found that the major phosphatidylcholines (PC) in the liver and the ratio of total PC to PPIX in the bile were decreased in Fech-mut mice compared to wild type mice. A decrease of the ratio of PC to PPIX in the bile can potentiate the accumulation of PPIX in the liver because PC increases PPIX solubility and excretion. These metabolomic findings suggest that the accumulation of PPIX, together with the disruption of the homeostasis of bile acids, Cer, and PC, contributes to EPP-associated liver injury.

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