Metabolomics is a promising tool for discovery of novel biomarkers of chronic disease risk in prospective epidemiologic studies. We investigated the between- and within-person variation of the concentrations of 163 serum metabolites over a period of 4 months to evaluate the metabolite reliability expressed by the intraclass-correlation coefficient (ICC: the ratio of between-person variance and total variance). The analyses were performed with the BIOCRATES AbsoluteIDQ™ targeted metabolomics technology, including acylcarnitines, amino acids, glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids and hexose in 100 healthy individuals from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam study who had provided two fasting blood samples 4 months apart. Overall, serum reliability of metabolites over a 4-month period was good. The median ICC of the 163 metabolites was 0.57. The highest ICC was observed for hydroxysphingomyelin C14:1 (ICC = 0.85) and the lowest was found for acylcarnitine C3:1 (ICC = 0). Reliability was high for hexose (ICC = 0.76), sphingolipids (median ICC = 0.66; range: 0.24-0.85), amino acids (median ICC = 0.58; range: 0.41-0.72) and glycerophospholipids (median ICC = 0.58; range: 0.03-0.81). Among acylcarnitines, reliability of short and medium chain saturated compounds was good to excellent (ICC range: 0.50-0.81). Serum reliability was lower for most hydroxyacylcarnitines and monounsaturated acylcarnitines (ICC range: 0.11-0.45 and 0.00-0.63, respectively). For most of the metabolites a single measurement may be sufficient for risk assessment in epidemiologic studies with healthy subjects.
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