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This article is the author's final published version in Respiratory Research, Volume 25, Issue 1, 2024, Article number 58.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2024


BACKGROUND: The circulating metabolome, reflecting underlying cellular processes and disease biology, has not been fully characterized in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). We evaluated whether circulating levels of metabolites correlate with the presence of IPF, with the severity of IPF, or with the risk of clinically relevant outcomes among patients with IPF.

METHODS: We analyzed enrollment plasma samples from 300 patients with IPF in the IPF-PRO Registry and 100 individuals without known lung disease using a set of targeted metabolomics and clinical analyte modules. Linear regression was used to compare metabolite and clinical analyte levels between patients with IPF and controls and to determine associations between metabolite levels and measures of disease severity in patients with IPF. Unadjusted and adjusted univariable Cox regression models were used to evaluate associations between circulating metabolites and the risk of mortality or disease progression among patients with IPF.

RESULTS: Levels of 64 metabolites and 5 clinical analytes were significantly different between patients with IPF and controls. Among analytes with greatest differences were non-esterified fatty acids, multiple long-chain acylcarnitines, and select ceramides, levels of which were higher among patients with IPF versus controls. Levels of the branched-chain amino acids valine and leucine/isoleucine were inversely correlated with measures of disease severity. After adjusting for clinical factors known to influence outcomes, higher levels of the acylcarnitine C:16-OH/C:14-DC were associated with all-cause mortality, lower levels of the acylcarnitine C16:1-OH/C14:1DC were associated with all-cause mortality, respiratory death, and respiratory death or lung transplant, and higher levels of the sphingomyelin d43:2 were associated with the risk of respiratory death or lung transplantation.

CONCLUSIONS: IPF has a distinct circulating metabolic profile characterized by increased levels of non-esterified fatty acids, long-chain acylcarnitines, and ceramides, which may suggest a more catabolic environment that enhances lipid mobilization and metabolism. We identified select metabolites that were highly correlated with measures of disease severity or the risk of disease progression and that may be developed further as biomarkers.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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