A plasma α-tocopherome can be identified from proteins associated with vitamin e status in school-aged children of Nepal

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Background: The term vitamin E describes a family of 8 vitamers, 1 of which is α-tocopherol, that is essential for human health. Vitamin E status remains largely unknown in low-income countries because of the complexity and cost of measurement. Quantitative proteomicsmay offer an approach for identifying plasma proteins for assessing vitamin E status in these populations. Objective: To improve options for vitamin E status assessment, we sought to detect and quantify a set of plasma proteins associated with α- and γ-tocopherol concentrations in a cohort of 500 rural Nepalese children aged 6-8 y and, based on nutrient-protein associations, to predict the prevalence of vitamin E deficiency (α-tocopherol <12 μmol/L). Methods: Study children were born to mothers enrolled in an earlier antenatal micronutrient trial in Sarlahi District, Nepal. Plasma α- and γ-tocopherol concentrations were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography. Plasma aliquots were depleted of 6 high-abundance proteins, digested with trypsin, labeled with isobaric mass tags, and assessed for relative protein abundance by tandem mass spectrometry. Linear mixed-effects models were used to evaluate the association between α-tocopherol status and relative protein abundance and to predict deficiency. Results: We quantified 982 plasma proteins in >10% of all child samples, of which 119 correlated with α-tocopherol (false discovery rate, q < 0.10). Proteins were primarily involved in lipid transport, coagulation, repair, innate host defenses, neural function, and homeostasis. Six proteins [apolipoprotein (apo)C-III; apoB; pyruvate kinase, muscle; forkhead box 04; unc5 homolog C; and regulator of G-protein signaling 8] explained71%of the variability in plasma α-tocopherol, predicting an in-sample population prevalence of vitamin E deficiency of 51.4% (95% CI: 46.4%, 56.3%) compared with a measured prevalence of 54.8%. Plasma γ-tocopherol was associated with 12 proteins (q < 0.10), 2 of which (apoC-III and Misato 1) explained 20% of its variability. Conclusions: In this undernourished population of children in South Asia, quantitative proteomics identified a large plasma α-tocopherome from which 6 proteins predicted the prevalence of vitamin E deficiency. The findings illustrate that protein biomarkers, once absolutely quantified, can potentially predict micronutrient deficiencies in populations. The maternal micronutrient supplementation trial from which data were derived as a follow-up activity was registered with clinicaltrials. gov as NCT00115271.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2646-2656
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2015


  • Bioinformatics
  • Micronutrient assessment
  • Nepal
  • Plasma proteomics
  • Tocopherome
  • Vitamin E
  • α-tocopherol
  • γ-tocopherol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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