Relationship between serum trimethylamine N-oxide and exposure to dioxin-like pollutants

Michael C. Petriello, Richard Charnigo, Manjula Sunkara, Sony Soman, Marian Pavuk, Linda Birnbaum, Andrew J. Morris, Bernhard Hennig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is a diet and gut microbiota-derived metabolite that has been linked to cardiovascular disease risk in human studies and animal models. TMAO levels show wide inter and intra individual variability in humans that can likely be accounted for by multiple factors including diet, the gut microbiota, levels of the TMAO generating liver enzyme Flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (FMO3) and kidney function. We recently found that dioxin-like (DL) environmental pollutants increased FMO3 expression to elevate circulating diet-derived TMAO in mice, suggesting that exposure to this class of pollutants might also contribute to inter-individual variability in circulating TMAO levels in humans. To begin to explore this possibility we examined the relationship between body burden of DL pollutants (reported by serum lipid concentrations) and serum TMAO levels (n = 340) in the Anniston, AL cohort, which was highly exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). TMAO concentrations in archived serum samples from the Anniston Community Health Survey (ACHS-II) were measured, and associations of TMAO with 28 indices of pollutant body burden, including total dioxins toxic equivalent (TEQ), were quantified. Twenty-three (22 after adjustment for multiple comparisons) of the 28 indices were significantly positively associated with TMAO. Although the design of ACHS-II does not enable quantitative assessment of the contributions of previously known determinants of TMAO variability to this relationship, limited multivariate modeling revealed that total dioxins TEQ was significantly associated with TMAO among females (except at high BMIs) but not among males. Our results from this cross-sectional study indicate that exposure to DL pollutants may contribute to elevated serum TMAO levels. Prospective longitudinal studies will be required to assess the joint relationship between DL pollutant exposures, other determinants of TMAO, and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-218
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Anniston
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dioxin
  • FMO3
  • TMAO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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