Untargeted Metabolomics Differentiates l-Carnitine Treated Septic Shock 1-Year Survivors and Nonsurvivors

J Proteome Res. 2019 May 3;18(5):2004-2011. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.8b00774. Epub 2019 Apr 1.


l-Carnitine is a candidate therapeutic for the treatment of septic shock, a condition that carries a ≥40% mortality. Responsiveness to l-carnitine may hinge on unique metabolic profiles that are not evident from the clinical phenotype. To define these profiles, we performed an untargeted metabolomic analysis of serum from 21 male sepsis patients enrolled in a placebo-controlled l-carnitine clinical trial. Although treatment with l-carnitine is known to induce changes in the sepsis metabolome, we found a distinct set of metabolites that differentiated 1-year survivors from nonsurvivors. Following feature alignment, we employed a new and innovative data reduction strategy followed by false discovery correction, and identified 63 metabolites that differentiated carnitine-treated 1-year survivors versus nonsurvivors. Following identification by MS/MS and database search, several metabolite markers of vascular inflammation were determined to be prominently elevated in the carnitine-treated nonsurvivor cohort, including fibrinopeptide A, allysine, and histamine. While preliminary, these results corroborate that metabolic profiles may be useful to differentiate l-carnitine treatment responsiveness. Furthermore, these data show that the metabolic signature of l-carnitine-treated nonsurvivors is associated with a severity of illness (e.g., vascular inflammation) that is not routinely clinically detected.

Keywords: liquid chromatography−mass spectroscopy; pharmacometabolomics; vascular inflammation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Aminoadipic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • 2-Aminoadipic Acid / blood
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Carnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Fibrinopeptide A / metabolism*
  • Histamine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolome
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shock, Septic / blood
  • Shock, Septic / diagnosis*
  • Shock, Septic / mortality
  • Shock, Septic / pathology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survivors
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Biomarkers
  • 2-Aminoadipic Acid
  • Fibrinopeptide A
  • allysine
  • Histamine
  • Carnitine