A metabolomic endotype of bioenergetic dysfunction predicts mortality in critically ill patients with acute respiratory failure

Sci Rep. 2021 May 18;11(1):10515. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-89716-0.


Acute respiratory failure (ARF) requiring mechanical ventilation, a complicating factor in sepsis and other disorders, is associated with high morbidity and mortality. Despite its severity and prevalence, treatment options are limited. In light of accumulating evidence that mitochondrial abnormalities are common in ARF, here we applied broad spectrum quantitative and semiquantitative metabolomic analyses of serum from ARF patients to detect bioenergetic dysfunction and determine its association with survival. Plasma samples from surviving and non-surviving patients (N = 15/group) were taken at day 1 and day 3 after admission to the medical intensive care unit and, in survivors, at hospital discharge. Significant differences between survivors and non-survivors (ANOVA, 5% FDR) include bioenergetically relevant intermediates of redox cofactors nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and NAD phosphate (NADP), increased acyl-carnitines, bile acids, and decreased acyl-glycerophosphocholines. Many metabolites associated with poor outcomes are substrates of NAD(P)-dependent enzymatic processes, while alterations in NAD cofactors rely on bioavailability of dietary B-vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and pyridoxine. Changes in the efficiency of the nicotinamide-derived cofactors' biosynthetic pathways also associate with alterations in glutathione-dependent drug metabolism characterized by substantial differences observed in the acetaminophen metabolome. Based on these findings, a four-feature model developed with semi-quantitative and quantitative metabolomic results predicted patient outcomes with high accuracy (AUROC = 0.91). Collectively, this metabolomic endotype points to a close association between mitochondrial and bioenergetic dysfunction and mortality in human ARF, thus pointing to new pharmacologic targets to reduce mortality in this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Critical Illness*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Metabolomics*
  • Middle Aged
  • NAD / metabolism
  • NADP / metabolism
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • NAD
  • NADP