Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid from COPD Patients Reveals More Compounds Associated with Disease than Matched Plasma

Metabolites. 2019 Jul 25;9(8):157. doi: 10.3390/metabo9080157.


Smoking causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Though recent studies identified a COPD metabolomic signature in blood, no large studies examine the metabolome in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, a more direct representation of lung cell metabolism. We performed untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) on BAL and matched plasma from 115 subjects from the SPIROMICS cohort. Regression was performed with COPD phenotypes as the outcome and metabolites as the predictor, adjusted for clinical covariates and false discovery rate. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) grouped metabolites into modules which were then associated with phenotypes. K-means clustering grouped similar subjects. We detected 7939 and 10,561 compounds in BAL and paired plasma samples, respectively. FEV1/FVC (Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second/Forced Vital Capacity) ratio, emphysema, FEV1 % predicted, and COPD exacerbations associated with 1230, 792, eight, and one BAL compounds, respectively. Only two plasma compounds associated with a COPD phenotype (emphysema). Three BAL co-expression modules associated with FEV1/FVC and emphysema. K-means BAL metabolomic signature clustering identified two groups, one with more airway obstruction (34% of subjects, median FEV1/FVC 0.67), one with less (66% of subjects, median FEV1/FVC 0.77; p < 2 × 10-4). Associations between metabolites and COPD phenotypes are more robustly represented in BAL compared to plasma.

Keywords: BAL; BALF; COPD; LC–MS; bronchoalveolar lavage; emphysema; mass spectrometry; metabolomics; plasma.