Urinary metabolic signatures and early triage of acute radiation exposure in rat model
After a large-scale radiological accident, early-response biomarkers to assess radiation exposure over a broad dose range are not only the basis of rapid radiation triage, but are also the key to the rational use of limited medical resources and to the improvement of treatment efficiency. Because of its high throughput, rapid assays and minimally invasive sample collection, metabolomics has been applied to research into radiation exposure biomarkers in recent years. Due to the complexity of radiobiological effects, most of the potential biomarkers are both dose-dependent and time-dependent. In reality, it is very difficult to find a single biomarker that is both sensitive and specific in a given radiation exposure scenario. Therefore, a multi-parameters approach for radiation exposure assessment is more realistic in real nuclear accidents. In this study, untargeted metabolomic profiling based on gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and targeted amino acid profiling based on LC-MS/MS were combined to investigate early urinary metabolite responses within 48 h post-exposure in a rat model. A few of the key early-response metabolites for radiation exposure were identified, which revealed the most relevant metabolic pathways. Furthermore, a panel of potential urinary biomarkers was selected through a multi-criteria approach and applied to early triage following irradiation. Our study suggests that it is feasible to use a multi-parameters approach to triage radiation damage, and the urinary excretion levels of the relevant metabolites provide insights into radiation damage and repair.