Characteristics of Normalization Methods in Quantitative Urinary Metabolomics—Implications for Epidemiological Applications and Interpretations

Tianqi Li, Tuulia Tynkkynen, Andrei Ihanus, Siyu Zhao, Ville Petteri Mäkinen, Mika Ala-Korpela

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A systematic comparison is presented for the effects of seven different normalization schemes in quantitative urinary metabolomics. Morning spot urine samples were analyzed with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy from a population-based group of 994 individuals. Forty-four metabolites were quantified and the metabolite–metabolite associations and the associations of metabolite concentrations with two representative clinical measures, body mass index and mean arterial pressure, were analyzed. Distinct differences were observed when comparing the effects of normalization for the intra-urine metabolite associations with those for the clinical associations. The metabolite–metabolite associations show quite complex patterns of similarities and dissimilarities between the different normalization methods, while the epidemiological association patterns are consistent, leading to the same overall biological interpretations. The results indicate that, in gen-eral, the normalization method appears to have only minor influences on standard epidemiological regression analyses with clinical/physiological measures. Multimetabolite normalization schemes showed consistent results with the customary creatinine reference. Nevertheless, interpretations of intra-urine metabolite associations and nuanced understanding of the epidemiological associations call for comparisons with different normalizations and accounting for the physiology, metabolism and kidney function related to the normalization schemes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number903
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2022


    • NMR
    • biomarkers
    • disease risk
    • epidemiology
    • kidney function
    • metabolomics
    • normalization
    • urine

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biochemistry
    • Molecular Biology

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