Metabolomic profiling of Burkholderia pseudomallei using UHPLC-ESI-Q-TOF-MS reveals specific biomarkers including 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol and unique thiamine degradation pathway

Susanna K.P. Lau, Ching Wan Lam, Shirly O.T. Curreem, Kim Chung Lee, Wang Ngai Chow, Candy C.Y. Lau, Siddharth Sridhar, Sally C.Y. Wong, Paolo Martelli, Suk Wai Hui, Kwok Yung Yuen, Patrick C.Y. Woo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Burkholderia pseudomallei is an emerging pathogen that causes melioidosis, a serious and potentially fatal disease which requires prolonged antibiotics to prevent relapse. However, diagnosis of melioidosis can be difficult, especially in culture-negative cases. While metabolomics represents an uprising tool for studying infectious diseases, there were no reports on its applications to B. pseudomallei. To search for potential specific biomarkers, we compared the metabolomics profiles of culture supernatants of B. pseudomallei (15 strains), B. thailandensis (3 strains), B. cepacia complex (14 strains), P. aeruginosa (4 strains) and E. coli (3 strains), using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-quadruple time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UHPLC-ESI-Q-TOF-MS). Multi- and univariate analyses were used to identify specific metabolites in B. pseudomallei. Results: Principal component and partial-least squares discrimination analysis readily distinguished the metabolomes between B. pseudomallei and other bacterial species. Using multi-variate and univariate analysis, eight metabolites with significantly higher levels in B. pseudomallei were identified. Three of the eight metabolites were identified by MS/MS, while five metabolites were unidentified against database matching, suggesting that they may be potentially novel compounds. One metabolite, m/z 144.048, was identified as 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol, a degradation product of thiamine (vitamin B1), with molecular formula C6H9NOS by database searches and confirmed by MS/MS using commercially available authentic chemical standard. Two metabolites, m/z 512.282 and m/z 542.2921, were identified as tetrapeptides, Ile-His-Lys-Asp with molecular formula C22H37N7O7 and Pro-Arg-Arg-Asn with molecular formula C21H39N11O6, respectively. To investigate the high levels of 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol in B. pseudomallei, we compared the thiamine degradation pathways encoded in genomes of B. pseudomallei and B. thailandensis. While both B. pseudomallei and B. thailandensis possess thiaminase I which catalyzes degradation of thiamine to 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol, thiM, which encodes hydroxyethylthiazole kinase responsible for degradation of 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol, is present and expressed in B. thailandensis as detected by PCR/RT-PCR, but absent or not expressed in all B. pseudomallei strains. This suggests that the high 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol level in B. pseudomallei is likely due to the absence of hydroxyethylthiazole kinase and hence reduced downstream degradation. Conclusion: Eight novel biomarkers, including 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol and two tetrapeptides, were identified in the culture supernatant of B. pseudomallei.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
JournalCell and Bioscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarkers
  • Burkholderia pseudomallei
  • Metabolomics
  • Specific

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolomic profiling of Burkholderia pseudomallei using UHPLC-ESI-Q-TOF-MS reveals specific biomarkers including 4-methyl-5-thiazoleethanol and unique thiamine degradation pathway'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this