Repository logo

Metabolomic and lipidomic plasma profile changes in human participants ascending to Everest Base Camp.

Accepted version

Change log


O'Brien, Katie A 
Richardson, Larissa 
Koulman, Albert 
Murray, Andrew J 


At high altitude oxygen delivery to the tissues is impaired leading to oxygen insufficiency (hypoxia). Acclimatisation requires adjustment to tissue metabolism, the details of which remain incompletely understood. Here, metabolic responses to progressive environmental hypoxia were assessed through metabolomic and lipidomic profiling of human plasma taken from 198 human participants before and during an ascent to Everest Base Camp (5,300 m). Aqueous and lipid fractions of plasma were separated and analysed using proton (1H)-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and direct infusion mass spectrometry, respectively. Bayesian robust hierarchical regression revealed decreasing isoleucine with ascent alongside increasing lactate and decreasing glucose, which may point towards increased glycolytic rate. Changes in the lipid profile with ascent included a decrease in triglycerides (48-50 carbons) associated with de novo lipogenesis, alongside increases in circulating levels of the most abundant free fatty acids (palmitic, linoleic and oleic acids). Together, this may be indicative of fat store mobilisation. This study provides the first broad metabolomic account of progressive exposure to environmental hypobaric hypoxia in healthy humans. Decreased isoleucine is of particular interest as a potential contributor to muscle catabolism observed with exposure to hypoxia at altitude. Substantial changes in lipid metabolism may represent important metabolic responses to sub-acute exposure to environmental hypoxia.



Adult, Bayes Theorem, Body Weight, Female, Humans, Lipid Metabolism, Lipidomics, Male, Metabolomics, Middle Aged, Oxygen, Triglycerides

Journal Title

Sci Rep

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Springer Science and Business Media LLC
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (unknown)
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) (146281)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12012/5)
Medical Research Council (MR/P011705/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/P01836X/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_PC_13030)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M027252/2)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/P028195/1)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M027252/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_PC_12012)
King's College London, National Institute of Health Research