Diet-induced and mono-genetic obesity alter volatile organic compound signature in mice

Martin Kistler, Andreea Muntean, Wilfried Szymczak, Nadine Rink, Helmut Fuchs, Valerie Gailus-Durner, Wolfgang Wurst, Christoph Hoeschen, Martin Klingenspor, Martin Hrabě De Angelis, Jan Rozman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The prevalence of obesity is still rising in many countries, resulting in an increased risk of associated metabolic diseases. In this study we aimed to describe the volatile organic compound (VOC) patterns symptomatic for obesity. We analyzed high fat diet (HFD) induced obese and mono-genetic obese mice (global knock-in mutation in melanocortin-4 receptor MC4R-ki). The source strengths of 208 VOCs were analyzed in ad libitum fed mice and after overnight food restriction. Volatiles relevant for a random forest-based separation of obese mice were detected (26 in MC4R-ki, 22 in HFD mice). Eight volatiles were found to be important in both obesity models. Interestingly, by creating a partial correlation network of the volatile metabolites, the chemical and metabolic origins of several volatiles were identified. HFD-induced obese mice showed an elevation in the ketone body acetone and acrolein, a marker of lipid peroxidation, and several unidentified volatiles. In MC4R-ki mice, several yet-unidentified VOCs were found to be altered. Remarkably, the pheromone (methylthio)methanethiol was found to be reduced, linking metabolic dysfunction and reproduction. The signature of volatile metabolites can be instrumental in identifying and monitoring metabolic disease states, as shown in the screening of the two obese mouse models in this study. Our findings show the potential of breath gas analysis to non-invasively assess metabolic alterations for personalized diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number016009
JournalJournal of Breath Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2016


  • Gaussian graphical model
  • high-fat diet
  • melanocortin 4 receptor
  • mouse pheromone
  • non-invasive metabolic phenotyping
  • volatile organic compound


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