Background: Metabolomic evaluation of cystic fibrosis (CF) airway secretions could identify metabolites and metabolic pathways involved in neutrophilic airway inflammation that could serve as biomarkers and therapeutic targets.
Methods: Mass spectrometry (MS)-based metabolomics was performed on a discovery set of BAL fluid samples from 25 children with CF, and targeted MS methods were used to identify and quantify metabolites related to neutrophilic inflammation. A biomarker panel of these metabolites was then compared with neutrophil counts and clinical markers in independent validation sets of lavage from children with CF and adults with COPD compared with control subjects.
Results: Of the 7,791 individual peaks detected by positive-mode MS metabolomics discovery profiling, 338 were associated with neutrophilic inflammation. Targeted MS determined that many of these peaks were generated by metabolites from pathways related to the metabolism of purines, polyamines, proteins, and nicotinamide. Analysis of the independent validation sets verified that, in subjects with CF or COPD, several metabolites, particularly those from purine metabolism and protein catabolism pathways, were strongly correlated with neutrophil counts and were related to clinical markers, including airway infection and lung function.
Conclusions: MS metabolomics identified multiple metabolic pathways associated with neutrophilic airway inflammation. These findings provide insight into disease pathophysiology and can serve as the basis for developing disease biomarkers and therapeutic interventions for airways diseases.