Low Serum Levels of Soluble Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor κ B Ligand (sRANKL) Are Associated with Metabolic Dysregulation and Predict Long-Term Mortality in Critically Ill Patients

Diagnostics (Basel). 2021 Dec 28;12(1):62. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12010062.


Soluble receptor activator of nuclear factor κ B ligand (sRANKL) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, and therefore, involved in various inflammatory processes. The role of sRANKL in the course of bone remodeling via activation of osteoclasts as well as chronic disease progression has been described extensively. However, the potential functional importance of sRANKL in critically ill or septic patients remained unknown. Therefore, we measured sRANKL serum concentrations in 303 critically ill patients, including 203 patients with sepsis and 100 with non-sepsis critical illness. Results were compared to 99 healthy controls. Strikingly, in critically ill patients sRANKL serum levels were significantly decreased at intensive care unit (ICU) admission (p = 0.011) without differences between sepsis and non-sepsis patients. Inline, sRANKL was correlated with markers of metabolic dysregulation, such as pre-existing diabetes and various adipokines (e.g., adiponectin, leptin receptor). Importantly, overall mortality of critically ill patients in a three-year follow-up was significantly associated with decreased sRANKL serum concentrations at ICU admission (p = 0.038). Therefore, our study suggests sRANKL as a biomarker in critically ill patients which is associated with poor prognosis and overall survival beyond ICU stay.

Keywords: adipokine; critical illness; diabetes; glucose metabolism; inflammation; intensive care unit (ICU); prognosis; sepsis; soluble receptor activator of nuclear factor κ B ligand (sRANKL).