Integrative Modeling of Quantitative Plasma Lipoprotein, Metabolic, and Amino Acid Data Reveals a Multiorgan Pathological Signature of SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Torben Kimhofer, Samantha Lodge, Luke Whiley, Nicola Gray, Ruey Leng Loo, Nathan G. Lawler, Philipp Nitschke, Sze How Bong, David L. Morrison, Sofina Begum, Toby Richards, Toby Richards, Bu B. Yeap, Chris Smith, Kenneth G.C. Smith, Elaine Holmes, Jeremy K. Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


The metabolic effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection on human blood plasma were characterized using multiplatform metabolic phenotyping with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Quantitative measurements of lipoprotein subfractions, α-1-acid glycoprotein, glucose, and biogenic amines were made on samples from symptomatic coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) patients who had tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (n = 17) and from age- and gender-matched controls (n = 25). Data were analyzed using an orthogonal-projections to latent structures (OPLS) method and used to construct an exceptionally strong (AUROC = 1) hybrid NMR-MS model that enabled detailed metabolic discrimination between the groups and their biochemical relationships. Key discriminant metabolites included markers of inflammation including elevated α-1-acid glycoprotein and an increased kynurenine/tryptophan ratio. There was also an abnormal lipoprotein, glucose, and amino acid signature consistent with diabetes and coronary artery disease (low total and HDL Apolipoprotein A1, low HDL triglycerides, high LDL and VLDL triglycerides), plus multiple highly significant amino acid markers of liver dysfunction (including the elevated glutamine/glutamate and Fischer’s ratios) that present themselves as part of a distinct SARS-CoV-2 infection pattern. A multivariate training-test set model was validated using independent samples from additional SARS-CoV-2 positive patients and controls. The predictive model showed a sensitivity of 100% for SARS-CoV-2 positivity. The breadth of the disturbed pathways indicates a systemic signature of SARS-CoV-2 positivity that includes elements of liver dysfunction, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and coronary heart disease risk that are consistent with recent reports that COVID-19 is a systemic disease affecting multiple organs and systems. Metabolights study reference: MTBLS2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4442-4454
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020


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