The use of metabolic profiling to identify insulin resistance in veal calves

Andre J. Pantophlet*, H. Roelofsen, Marcel P. de Vries, Walter J.J. Gerrits, Joost J.G.C. Van Den Borne, R.J. Vonk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Heavy veal calves (4–6 months old) are at risk of developing insulin resistance and disturbed glucose homeostasis. Prolonged insulin resistance could lead to metabolic disorders and impaired growth performance. Recently, we discovered that heavy Holstein-Friesian calves raised on a high-lactose or high-fat diet did not differ in insulin sensitivity, that insulin sensitivity was low and 50% of the calves could be considered insulin resistant. Understanding the patho-physiological mechanisms underlying insulin resistance and discovering biomarkers for early diagnosis would be useful for developing prevention strategies. Therefore, we explored plasma metabolic profiling techniques to build models and discover potential biomarkers and pathways that can distinguish between insulin resistant and moderately insulin sensitive veal calves. The calves (n = 14) were classified as insulin resistant (IR) or moderately insulin sensitive (MIS) based on results from a euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp, using a cut-off value (M/I-value <4.4) to identify insulin resistance. Metabolic profiles of fasting plasma samples were analyzed using reversed phase (RP) and hydrophilic interaction (HILIC) liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Orthogonal partial least square discriminant analysis was performed to compare metabolic profiles. Insulin sensitivity was on average 2.3x higher (P <0.001) in MIS than IR group. For both RP-LC-MS and HILIC-LC-MS satisfactory models were build (R2Y >90% and Q2Y >66%), which allowed discrimination between MIS and IR calves. A total of 7 and 20 metabolic features (for RP-LC-MS and HILIC-LC-MS respectively) were most responsible for group separation. Of these, 7 metabolites could putatively be identified that differed (P <0.05) between groups (potential biomarkers). Pathway analysis indicated disturbances in glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid metabolism, the glycine, serine and threonine metabolism, and primary bile acid biosynthesis. These results demonstrate that plasma metabolic profiling can be used to identify insulin resistance in veal calves and can lead to underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0179612
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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