Diabetes 2017 11 28;66(11):2915-2926. Epub 2017 Aug 28.
Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Mendelian randomization (MR) provides us the opportunity to investigate the causal paths of metabolites in type 2 diabetes and glucose homeostasis. We developed and tested an MR approach based on genetic risk scoring for plasma metabolite levels, utilizing a pathway-based sensitivity analysis to control for nonspecific effects. We focused on 124 circulating metabolites that correlate with fasting glucose in the Erasmus Rucphen Family (ERF) study ( = 2,564) and tested the possible causal effect of each metabolite with glucose and type 2 diabetes and vice versa. We detected 14 paths with potential causal effects by MR, following pathway-based sensitivity analysis. Our results suggest that elevated plasma triglycerides might be partially responsible for increased glucose levels and type 2 diabetes risk, which is consistent with previous reports. Additionally, elevated HDL components, i.e., small HDL triglycerides, might have a causal role of elevating glucose levels. In contrast, large (L) and extra large (XL) HDL lipid components, i.e., XL-HDL cholesterol, XL-HDL-free cholesterol, XL-HDL phospholipids, L-HDL cholesterol, and L-HDL-free cholesterol, as well as HDL cholesterol seem to be protective against increasing fasting glucose but not against type 2 diabetes. Finally, we demonstrate that genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes associates with increased levels of alanine and decreased levels of phosphatidylcholine alkyl-acyl C42:5 and phosphatidylcholine alkyl-acyl C44:4. Our MR results provide novel insight into promising causal paths to and from glucose and type 2 diabetes and underline the value of additional information from high-resolution metabolomics over classic biochemistry.