IntroductionMetabolomics has emerged as a valuable tool to discover novel biomarkers and study the pathophysiology of diabetic nephropathy (DN). However, the effect of postoperative acute kidney injury (AKI) on diabetes mellitus (DM) to chronic DN progression has not been evaluated from the perspective of metabolomics.MethodsA group of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) inpatients, who underwent off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), were enrolled in our study. According to whether postoperative AKI occurred, patients were grouped in either the AKI group (AKI, n = 44) or the non-AKI group (NAKI, n = 44). Urine samples were collected from these patients before and 24 h after operation. Six patients from the AKI group and six patients from the NAKI group were chosen as the pilot cohort for untargeted metabolomics analysis, with the goal of identifying postoperative AKI-related metabolites. To understand the possible role of these metabolites in the chronic development of renal injury among T2DM patients, trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline and azelaic acid were quantified by targeted metabolomics analysis among 38 NAKI patients, 38 AKI patients, 46 early DN patients (DN-micro group), and 34 overt DN patients (DN-macro group).ResultsUntargeted metabolomics screened 61 statistically distinguishable metabolites in postoperative urine samples, compared with preoperative urine samples. Via Venn diagram analysis, nine of 61 were postoperative AKI-related metabolites, including trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline, uridine triphosphate, p-aminobenzoate, caffeic acid, adrenochrome, δ-valerolactam, L-norleucine, 5′-deoxy-5′-(methylthio) adenosine, and azelaic acid. By targeted metabolomics analysis, the level of trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline increased gradually from the NAKI group to the AKI, DN-micro, and DN-macro groups. For azelaic acid, the highest level was found in the NAKI and DN-micro groups, followed by the DN-macro group. The AKI group exhibited the lowest level of azelaic acid.ConclusionsThe detection of urinary trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline after AKI could be treated as an early warning of chronic DN progression and might be linked to renal fibrosis. Urinary azelaic acid can be used to monitor renal function noninvasively in DM and DN patients. Our results identified markers of AKI on DM and the chronic progression of DN. In addition, the progression of DN was associated with AKI-like episodes occurring in DM.