Metabolic Phenotyping Protocol Part 1

Implementing the Statistical Analysis in Metabolic Phenotyping Protocol of Blaise et al.

Bryan Hanson


February 1, 2022

If you aren’t familiar with ChemoSpec, you might wish to look at the introductory vignette first.


Blaise et al. (2021) have published a detailed protocol for metabolomic phenotyping. They illustrate the protocol using a data set composed of 139 1H HR-MAS SS-NMR spectra (Blaise et al. 2007) of the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. There are two genotypes, wild type and a mutant, and worms from two life stages.

This series of posts follows the published protocol closely in order to illustrate how to implement the protocol using ChemoSpec. As in any chemometric analysis, there are decisions to be made about how to process the data. In these posts we are interested in which functions to use, and how to examine the results. We are not exploring all possible data processing choices, and argument choices are not necessarily optimized.

Import the Data

The data set is large, over 30 Mb, so we will grab it directly from the Github repo where it is stored. We will use a custom function to grab the data (you can see the function in the source for this document if interested). The URLs given below point to the frequency scale, the raw data matrix and the variables that describe the sample classification by genotype and life stage (L2 are gravid adults, L4 are larvae).

urls <- c("",
raw <- get_csvs_from_github(urls, sep = ",")  # a list of data sets
[1] "ppm.csv"        "X_spectra.csv"  "worm_yvars.csv"

Construct the Spectra Object

The format of the data as provided in Github is not really suited to using either of the built-in import functions in ChemoSpec. Therefore we will construct the Spectra object by hand, a useful exercise in its own right. The requirements for a Spectra object are described in ?Spectra.

Process the Raw Data

First, we’ll take the results in raw and convert them to the proper form. Each element of raw is a data frame.

# frequencies are in the 1st list element
freq <- unlist(raw[[1]], use.names = FALSE)

# intensities are in the 2nd list element
data <- as.matrix(raw[[2]])
dimnames(data) <- NULL  # remove the default data frame col names
ns <- nrow(data)  # ns = number of samples - used later

# get genotype & lifestage, recode into something more readible
yvars <- raw[[3]]
names(yvars) <- c("genotype", "stage")
yvars$genotype <- ifelse(yvars$genotype == 1L, "WT", "Mut")
yvars$stage <- ifelse(yvars$stage == 1L, "L2", "L4")
table(yvars)  # quick look at how many in each group
genotype L2 L4
     Mut 32 33
     WT  34 40

Assemble the Spectra Object by Hand

Next we’ll construct some useful sample names, create the groups vector, assign the colors and symbols, and finally put it all together into a Spectra object.

# build up sample names to include the group membership
sample_names <- as.character(1:ns)
sample_names <- paste(sample_names, yvars$genotype, sep = "_")
sample_names <- paste(sample_names, yvars$stage, sep = "_")
[1] "1_WT_L4"  "2_Mut_L4" "3_Mut_L4" "4_WT_L4"  "5_Mut_L4" "6_WT_L4" 
# use the sample names to create the groups vector
grp <- gsub("[0-9]+_", "", sample_names)  # remove 1_ etc, leaving WT_L2 etc
groups <- as.factor(grp)
[1] "Mut_L2" "Mut_L4" "WT_L2"  "WT_L4" 
# set up the colors based on group membership
data(Col12)  # see ?colorSymbol for a swatch
colors <- grp
colors <- ifelse(colors == "WT_L2", Col12[1], colors)
colors <- ifelse(colors == "WT_L4", Col12[2], colors)
colors <- ifelse(colors == "Mut_L2", Col12[3], colors)
colors <- ifelse(colors == "Mut_L4", Col12[4], colors)

# set up the symbols based on group membership
sym <- grp  # see ?points for the symbol codes
sym <- ifelse(sym == "WT_L2", 1, sym)
sym <- ifelse(sym == "WT_L4", 16, sym)
sym <- ifelse(sym == "Mut_L2", 0, sym)
sym <- ifelse(sym == "Mut_L4", 15, sym)
sym <- as.integer(sym)

# set up the alt symbols based on group membership
alt.sym <- grp
alt.sym <- ifelse(alt.sym == "WT_L2", "w2", alt.sym)
alt.sym <- ifelse(alt.sym == "WT_L4", "w4", alt.sym)
alt.sym <- ifelse(alt.sym == "Mut_L2", "m2", alt.sym)
alt.sym <- ifelse(alt.sym == "Mut_L4", "m4", alt.sym)

# put it all together; see ?Spectra for requirements
Worms <- list()
Worms$freq <- freq
Worms$data <- data
Worms$names <- sample_names
Worms$groups <- groups
Worms$colors <- colors
Worms$sym <- sym
Worms$alt.sym <- alt.sym
Worms$unit <- c("ppm", "intensity")
Worms$desc <- "C. elegans metabolic phenotyping study (Blaise 2007)"
class(Worms) <- "Spectra"
chkSpectra(Worms)  # verify we have everything correct

 C. elegans metabolic phenotyping study (Blaise 2007) 

    There are 139 spectra in this set.
    The y-axis unit is intensity.

    The frequency scale runs from
    8.9995 to 5e-04 ppm
    There are 8600 frequency values.
    The frequency resolution is
    0.001 ppm/point.

    This data set is not continuous
    along the frequency axis.
    Here are the data chunks:

  beg.freq end.freq   size beg.indx end.indx
1   8.9995   5.0005 -3.999        1     4000
2   4.5995   0.0005 -4.599     4001     8600

    The spectra are divided into 4 groups: 

   group no.     color symbol alt.sym
1 Mut_L2  32 #FB0D16FF      0      m2
2 Mut_L4  33 #FFC0CBFF     15      m4
3  WT_L2  34 #511CFCFF      1      w2
4  WT_L4  40 #2E94E9FF     16      w4

*** Note: this is an S3 object
of class 'Spectra'

Plot it to check it

Let’s look at one sample from each group to make sure everything looks reasonable (Figure Figure 1). At least these four spectra look good. Note that we are using the latest ChemoSpec that uses ggplot2 graphics by default (announced here).

p <- plotSpectra(Worms, which = c(35, 1, 34, 2), lab.pos = 7.5, offset = 0.008, amplify = 35,
    yrange = c(-0.05, 1.1))

In the next post we’ll continue with some basic exploratory data analysis.

This post was created using ChemoSpec version 6.1.3 and ChemoSpecUtils version 1.0.0.


Blaise, Benjamin J., Gonçalo D. S. Correia, Gordon A. Haggart, Izabella Surowiec, Caroline Sands, Matthew R. Lewis, Jake T. M. Pearce, et al. 2021. “Statistical Analysis in Metabolic Phenotyping.” Nature Protocols 16: 4299–4326.
Blaise, Benjamin J., Jean Giacomotto, Bénédicte Elena, Marc-Emmanuel Dumas, Pierre Toulhoat, Laurent Ségalat, and Lyndon Emsley. 2007. “Metabotyping of Caenorhabditis Elegans Reveals Latent Phenotypes.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (50): 19808–12.



BibTeX citation:
  author = {Bryan Hanson},
  title = {Metabolic {Phenotyping} {Protocol} {Part} 1},
  date = {2022-02-01},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Bryan Hanson. 2022. “Metabolic Phenotyping Protocol Part 1.” February 1, 2022.