Primary HCMV infection in pregnancy from classic data towards metabolomics: An exploratory analysis

Claudia Fattuoni, Francesco Palmas, Antonio Noto, I. Barberini, Michele Mussap, Dmitry Grapov, Angelica Dessì, Mariano Casu, Andrea Casanova, Milena Furione, Alessia Arossa, Arsenio Spinillo, Fausto Baldanti, Vassilios Fanos, Maurizio Zavattoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is one of the most frequent risk of viral infections during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to evaluate the metabolic profile in amniotic fluid (AF) samples obtained from HCMV-infected, and uninfected fetuses in order to elucidate changes in metabolic pathways during congenital HCMV infection and to recognize new potential diagnostic and/or prognostic biomarkers. Methods A retrospective cohort study was conducted on 63 pregnant women: 20 contracted primary HCMV infection during pregnancy and, subsequently, transmitted the virus to the fetus (transmitters); 20 contracted the infection without transmitting the virus to the fetus (non-transmitters); 23 who underwent amniocentesis for cytogenetic-based diagnosis were considered controls. Metabolomics analysis was performed by using the hyphenated technique Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC–MS) followed by a multivariate statistical approach. Four PLS-DA models were generated: controls vs. transmitters; controls vs. non-transmitters; transmitters vs. non-transmitters; and asymptomatic infected vs. symptomatic infected newborns. Subsequently, these models were exploited for network mapping. Results Compared with controls, HCMV transmitters showed significantly increased levels in glutamine, glycine, serine, pyruvic acid, threonine, threonic acid, and cystine; conversely, unknown U1715 and U1804, glutamic acid, U1437, fructose, sugar-like A203003 and A203005, and tyrosine levels were found decreased. In non-transmitters, glutamine, serine, glycine, threonic acid, threonine, 1-monostearin, urea, and cystine were found increased, while sorbitol, unknown U1804, sugar-like A203003, U1751, xylitol, leucine and fructose were decreased. The comparison between transmitters and non-transmitters did not produce a statistically significant model. Unlike controls' profile, a common feature of HCMV infected subjects (transmitters and non-transmitters) was the activation of glutamine-glutamate and pyrimidine metabolic pathways. In addition, a clusterization for asymptomatic vs. symptomatic outcome was also observed due to alteration of fatty acids biosynthesis. Conclusions Metabolomics approach could highlight the significant modification of maternal and placental status during HCMV infection for both transmitter and non-transmitter subjects. A further separation was observed for asymptomatic vs. symptomatic HCMV congenital infections model. Therefore, metabolomics may be a promising tool to improve the accuracy of an early diagnosis, and the management of HCMV pregnancy-related infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalClinica Chimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Amniotic fluid
  • Biomarkers
  • Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC–MS)
  • Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)
  • Metabolomics
  • Network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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