Metabolic profile distinguishes laminitis-susceptible and -resistant ponies before and after feeding a high sugar diet
Insulin dysregulation (ID) is a key risk factor for equine endocrinopathic laminitis, but in many cases ID can only be assessed accurately using dynamic tests. The identification of other biomarkers could provide an alternative or adjunct diagnostic method, to allow early intervention before laminitis develops. The present study characterised the metabolome of ponies with varying degrees of ID using basal and postprandial plasma samples obtained during a previous study, which examined the predictive power of blood insulin levels for the development of laminitis, in ponies fed a high-sugar diet. Samples from 10 pre-laminitic (PL - subsequently developed laminitis) and 10 non-laminitic (NL - did not develop laminitis) ponies were used in a targeted metabolomic assay. Differential concentration and pathway analysis were performed using linear models and global tests.
Significant changes in the concentration of six glycerophospholipids (adj. P ≤ 0.024) and a global enrichment of the glucose-alanine cycle (adj. P = 0.048) were found to characterise the response of PL ponies to the high-sugar diet. In contrast, the metabolites showed no significant association with the presence or absence of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in all ponies.
The present results suggest that ID and laminitis risk are associated with alterations in the glycerophospholipid and glucose metabolism, which may help understand and explain some molecular processes causing or resulting from these conditions. The prognostic value of the identified biomarkers for laminitis remains to be investigated in further metabolomic trials in horses and ponies.