Lavage lipidomics signatures in children with cystic fibrosis and protracted bacterial bronchitis

J Cyst Fibros. 2019 Nov;18(6):790-795. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2019.04.012. Epub 2019 Apr 25.


Background: Balanced composition of a well-functioning pulmonary surfactant is crucial and essential for normal breathing. Here, we explored whether the composition of lipids recovered by broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL) in children with cystic fibrosis (CF) differ from children with protracted bacterial bronchitis (PBB) and controls. We wanted to differentiate, if alterations are primarily caused by the disease process or secondary due to an increased amount of cell-membrane lipids derived from inflammatory cells.

Methods: Comprehensive lipidomics profiles of BAL fluid from children diagnosed with CF, PBB and controls were generated by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry analysis. BAL cell differential and numbers were examined.

Results: 55 children (37 patients with CF, 8 children with PBB and 10 controls) were included in this study. Results showed comparable total quantities of lipids in all groups. Phospholipids were the major lipid fraction and similar in all groups, whereas the fractions of cholesteryl esters were less and of free cholesterol were increased in children with CF. Among the phospholipids, patients with CF had higher proportion of the non-surfactant membrane-lipids in the classes phosphatidylethanolamine based plasmalogens (PE P), phosphatidylethanolmine (PE) and phosphatidylserine (PS), but a lower proportion of phosphatidylcholine (PC) compared to healthy controls. No such changes were identified in the BAL fluid of children diagnosed with PBB. No differences were observed for the surfactant lipids dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylcholin (PC 32:0) and phosphatidylglycerol (PG).

Conclusions: In CF patients with neutrophilic airway inflammation the lipid composition for surfactant phospholipid components were unchanged, whereas alteration in lipid profile were characteristic for those found in membranes of inflammatory cells. We suspect that the changes in CF were caused by the prolonged inflammation in contrast to a relatively short standing process in PBB.

Keywords: Bronchoalveolar lavage; Children; Cystic fibrosis; Infants; Lipids.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchitis / diagnosis
  • Bronchitis / metabolism
  • Bronchitis / microbiology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / immunology*
  • Child
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol Esters / metabolism*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / diagnosis
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / immunology
  • Cystic Fibrosis* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipidomics / methods*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / etiology
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / immunology
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Lipids / analysis
  • Membrane Lipids / classification
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Mucociliary Clearance / immunology
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Phospholipids
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator
  • Cholesterol

Supplementary concepts

  • Surfactant Dysfunction