Circadian clocks play a significant role in the correct timing of physiological metabolism, and clock disruption might lead to pathological changes of metabolism. One interesting method to assess the current state of metabolism is metabolomics. Metabolomics tries to capture the entirety of small molecules, i.e. the building blocks of metabolism, in a given matrix, such as blood, saliva or urine. Using mass spectrometric approaches we and others have shown that a significant portion of the human metabolome in saliva and blood exhibits circadian modulation; independent of food intake or sleep/wake rhythms. Recent advances in mass spectrometry techniques have introduced completely non-invasive breathprinting; a method to instantaneously assess small metabolites in human breath. In this proof-of-principle study, we extend these findings about the impact of circadian clocks on metabolomics to exhaled breath. As previously established, our method allows for real-time analysis of a rich matrix during frequent non-invasive sampling. We sampled the breath of three healthy, non-smoking human volunteers in hourly intervals for 24 hours during total sleep deprivation, and found 111 features in the breath of all individuals, 36-49% of which showed significant circadian variation in at least one individual. Our data suggest that real-time mass spectrometric "breathprinting" has high potential to become a useful tool to understand circadian metabolism, and develop new biomarkers to easily and in real-time assess circadian clock phase and function in experimental and clinical settings.
The article, Circadian Variation Of The Human Metabolome Captured By Real-Time Breath Analysis, is published in PLOS ONE and is free to access.