Serum Amino Acid Profiles Predict the Development of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Patients with Chronic HBV Infection

Tao Wu, Xiaojiao Zheng, Ming Yang, Aihua Zhao, Hongjiao Xiang, Tianlu Chen, Wei Jia*, Guang Ji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The study aimed to find out the alterations in serum amino acid (AA) profiles and to detect their relationship with carcinoma formation. 

Methods: Targeted metabolomics based on ultraperformance liquid chromatography triple quadrupole mass spectrometry to quantitatively analyze serum AA levels in 136 hepatitis B (CHB) patients and 93 hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. 

Results: It was shown that decreased serum levels of leucine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, serotonin, and taurine were observed in more HCC patients than CHB patients, but the serum phenylalanine level was increased. Serum valine and serotonin were lower in Class C than Class A and Class B in HCC patients. Accompanied with the higher score of Model for End-Stage Liver Disease, serum phenylalanine was increased not only in CHB patients but also in HCC patients. The serum level of phenylalanine increased in the decompensated stage more than in the compensated stage, while serum leucine and serotonin significantly decreased. Serum serotonin still had significant differences between CHB and HCC both in the HBV desoxyribonucleic acid (HBV-DNA) negative group and in the HBV-DNA positive group. Furthermore, it was shown that the tryptophan ratio, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)/aromatic amino acids ratio, BCAAs/tyrosine ratio, Fischer's ratio, and serotonin-to-tryptophan ratio significantly decreased, while the tyrosine ratio and the kynurenine-to-tryptophan ratio increased in HCC patients more than those in CHB. 

Conclusions: A distinct metabolite signature of some specific serum amino acids was found between CHB and HCC patients, which may help predict the development of HCC at an early stage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15795–15808
Number of pages14
JournalACS Omega
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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