COVID-19 is characterised by a dysregulated immune response, that involves signalling lipids acting as mediators of the inflammatory process along the innate and adaptive phases. To promote understanding of the disease biochemistry and provide targets for intervention, we applied a range of LC-MS platforms to analyse over 100 plasma samples from patients with varying COVID-19 severity and with detailed clinical information on inflammatory responses (>30 immune markers). The second publication in a series reports the results of quantitative LC-MS/MS profiling of 63 small lipids including oxylipins, free fatty acids, and endocannabinoids. Compared to samples taken from ward patients, intensive care unit (ICU) patients had 2–4-fold lower levels of arachidonic acid (AA) and its cyclooxygenase-derived prostanoids, as well as lipoxygenase derivatives, exhibiting negative correlations with inflammation markers. The same derivatives showed 2–5-fold increases in recovering ward patients, in paired comparison to early hospitalisation. In contrast, ICU patients showed elevated levels of oxylipins derived from poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) by non-enzymatic peroxidation or activity of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH), and these oxylipins positively correlated with markers of macrophage activation. The deficiency in AA enzymatic products and the lack of elevated intermediates of pro-resolving mediating lipids may result from the preference of alternative metabolic conversions rather than diminished stores of PUFA precursors. Supporting this, ICU patients showed 2-to-11-fold higher levels of linoleic acid (LA) and the corresponding fatty acyl glycerols of AA and LA, all strongly correlated with multiple markers of excessive immune response. Our results suggest that the altered oxylipin metabolism disrupts the expected shift from innate immune response to resolution of inflammation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: The study was supported by the TKI-LSH project ‘METACOVID’ and by the NWA project ‘Measuring and detection of health’. The research is part of the Netherlands X-omics Initiative and partially funded by NWO, project 184.034.019.
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