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Evidence for Peroxisomal Dysfunction and Dysregulation of the CDP-Choline Pathway in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By Xiaoyu Che, Christopher R. Brydges, Yuanzhi Yu, Adam Price, Sheryas Joshi, Ayan Roy, Bohyun Lee, Dinesh K Barupal, Aaron Cheng, Dana March Palmer, Susan Levine, Daniel L Peterson, Suzanne D. Vernon, Lucinda Bateman, Mady Hornig, Jose G Montoya, Anthony L Komaroff, Oliver Fiehn, Walter Ian Lipkin

Posted 22 Jun 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.14.21258895

Abstract Background Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a chronic and debilitating disease that is characterized by unexplained physical fatigue unrelieved by rest. Symptoms also include cognitive and sensory dysfunction, sleeping disturbances, orthostatic intolerance, and gastrointestinal problems. The pathogenesis is not fully understood. A syndrome clinically similar to ME/CFS has been reported following well-documented infections with the coronaviruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. At least 10% of COVID-19 survivors develop post acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC). Although many individuals with PASC have evidence of structural organ damage, a subset have symptoms consistent with ME/CFS including fatigue, post exertional malaise, cognitive dysfunction, gastrointestinal disturbances, and postural orthostatic intolerance. These common features in ME/CFS and PASC suggest that insights into the pathogenesis of either may enrich our understanding of both syndromes, and could expedite the development of strategies for identifying those at risk and interventions that prevent or mitigate disease. Methods Using regression, Bayesian and enrichment analyses, we conducted targeted and untargeted metabolomic analysis of 888 metabolic analytes in plasma samples of 106 ME/CFS cases and 91 frequency-matched healthy controls. Results In ME/CFS cases, regression, Bayesian and enrichment analyses revealed evidence of peroxisomal dysfunction with decreased levels of plasmalogens. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study suggesting peroxisomal dysfunction in ME/CFS based on a comprehensive plasma metabolomic analysis. Other findings included decreased levels of several membrane lipids, including phosphatidylcholines and sphingomyelins, that may indicate dysregulation of the cytidine-5'-diphosphocholine pathway. Enrichment analyses revealed decreased levels of choline, ceramides and carnitines, and increased levels of long chain triglycerides (TG) and hydroxy-eicosapentaenoic acid. Elevated levels of dicarboxylic acids were consistent with abnormalities in the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Using machine learning algorithms with selected metabolites as predictors, we were able to differentiate female ME/CFS cases from female controls (highest AUC=0.794) and ME/CFS cases without self-reported irritable bowel syndrome (sr-IBS) from controls without sr-IBS (highest AUC=0.873). Conclusion Our findings are consistent with earlier ME/CFS work indicating compromised energy metabolism and redox imbalance, and highlight new abnormalities that may provide insights into the pathogenesis of ME/CFS.

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