Prednisone is often used for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases but they suffer from variable therapeutic responses and significant adverse effects. Serum biological markers that are modulated by chronic corticosteroid use have not been identified. Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder caused by antibodies directed against proteins present at the post-synaptic surface of neuromuscular junction resulting in weakness. The patients with myasthenia gravis are primarily treated with prednisone. We analyzed the metabolomic profile of serum collected from patients prior to and after 12 weeks of prednisone treatment during a clinical trial. Our aim was to identify metabolites that may be treatment responsive and be evaluated in future studies as potential biomarkers of efficacy or adverse effects. Ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled with electro-spray quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometry was used to obtain comparative metabolomic and lipidomic profile. Untargeted metabolic profiling of serum showed a clear distinction between pre- and post-treatment groups. Chronic prednisone treatment caused upregulation of membrane associated glycerophospholipids: phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylserine, 1, 2-diacyl-sn glycerol 3 phosphate and 1-Acyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine. Arachidonic acid (AA) and AA derived pro-inflammatory eicosanoids such as 18-carboxy dinor leukotriene B4 and 15 hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acids were reduced. Perturbations in amino acid, carbohydrate, vitamin and lipid metabolism were observed. Chronic prednisone treatment caused increase in membrane associated glycerophospholipids, which may be associated with certain adverse effects. Decrease of AA and AA derived pro-inflammatory eicosanoids demonstrate that immunosuppression by corticosteroid is via suppression of pro-inflammatory pathways. The study identified metabolomic fingerprints that can now be validated as prednisone responsive biomarkers for the improvement in diagnostic accuracy and prediction of therapeutic outcome.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00683969.