Metabolome-wide association study of anti-epileptic drug treatment during pregnancy

Douglas I. Walker, Kayla Perry-Walker, Richard H. Finnell, Kurt D. Pennell, Vilinh Tran, Ryan C. May, Thomas F. McElrath, Kimford J. Meador, Page B. Pennell, Dean P. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Pregnant women with epilepsy (PWWE) require continuous anti-epileptic drug (AED) treatment to avoid risk to themselves and fetal risks secondary to maternal seizures, resulting in prolonged AED exposure to the developing embryo and fetus. The objectives of this study were to determine whether high-resolution metabolomics is able to link the metabolite profile of PWWE receiving lamotrigine or levetiracetam for seizure control to associated pharmacodynamic (PD) biological responses. Untargeted metabolomic analysis of plasma obtained from 82 PWWE was completed using high-resolution mass spectrometry. Biological alterations due to lamotrigine or levetiracetam monotherapy were determined by a metabolome-wide association study that compared patients taking either drug to those who did not require AED treatment. Metabolic changes associated with AED use were then evaluated by testing for drug-dose associated metabolic variations and pathway enrichment. AED therapy resulted in drug-associated metabolic profiles recognizable within maternal plasma. Both the parent compounds and major metabolites were detected, and each AED was correlated with other metabolic features and pathways. Changes in metabolites and metabolic pathways important to maternal health and linked to fetal neurodevelopment were detected for both drugs, including changes in one‑carbon metabolism, neurotransmitter biosynthesis and steroid metabolism. In addition, decreased levels of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and tetrahydrofolate were detected in women taking lamotrigine, which is consistent with recent findings showing increased risk of autism spectrum disorder traits in PWWE using AED. These results represent a first step in development of pharmacometabolomic framework with potential to detect adverse AED-related metabolic changes during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-130
Number of pages9
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Epilepsy
  • Folate
  • High-resolution mass spectrometry
  • Lamotrigine
  • Levetiracetam
  • Pharmacometabolomics


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