Trimethylamine (TMA) is a gut microbial metabolite—rendered by the enzymatic cleavage of nutrients containing a TMA moiety in their chemical structure. TMA can be oxidized as trimethylamine N
-oxide (TMAO) catalyzed by hepatic flavin monooxygenases. Circulating TMAO has been demonstrated to portend a pro-inflammatory state, contributing to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. Consequently, TMAO serves as an excellent candidate biomarker for a variety of chronic inflammatory disorders. The highly positive correlation between plasma TMAO and urine TMAO suggests that urine TMAO has the potential to serve as a less invasive biomarker for chronic disease compared to plasma TMAO. In this study, we validated a method to simultaneously measure urine TMA and TMAO concentrations by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Urine TMA and TMAO can be extracted by hexane/butanol under alkaline pH and transferred to the aqueous phase following acidification for LC/MS quantitation. Importantly, during sample processing, none of the nutrients with a chemical structure containing a TMA moiety were spontaneously cleaved to yield TMA. Moreover, we demonstrated that the acidification of urine prevents an increase of TMA after prolonged storage as was observed in non-acidified urine. Finally, here we demonstrated that TMAO can spontaneously degrade to TMA at a very slow rate.
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