The cerebrospinal fluid proteome of preterm infants predicts neurodevelopmental outcome

Front Pediatr. 2022 Jul 19:10:921444. doi: 10.3389/fped.2022.921444. eCollection 2022.


Background: Survival rate increases for preterm infants, but long-term neurodevelopmental outcome predictors are lacking. Our primary aim was to determine whether a specific proteomic profile in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of preterm infants differs from that of term infants and to identify novel biomarkers of neurodevelopmental outcome in preterm infants.

Methods: Twenty-seven preterm infants with median gestational age 27 w + 4 d and ten full-term infants were enrolled prospectively. Protein profiling of CSF were performed utilizing an antibody suspension bead array. The relative levels of 178 unique brain derived proteins and inflammatory mediators, selected from the Human Protein Atlas, were measured.

Results: The CSF protein profile of preterm infants differed from that of term infants. Increased levels of brain specific proteins that are associated with neurodevelopment and neuroinflammatory pathways made up a distinct protein profile in the preterm infants. The most significant differences were seen in proteins involved in neurodevelopmental regulation and synaptic plasticity, as well as components of the innate immune system. Several proteins correlated with favorable outcome in preterm infants at 18-24 months corrected age. Among the proteins that provided strong predictors of outcome were vascular endothelial growth factor C, Neurocan core protein and seizure protein 6, all highly important in normal brain development.

Conclusion: Our data suggest a vulnerability of the preterm brain to postnatal events and that alterations in protein levels may contribute to unfavorable neurodevelopmental outcome.

Keywords: cerebrospinal fluid; neonatal sepsis; neurodevelopmental outcome; outcome prediction; preterm infant; proteomic profile.