Pharmacometabolomics identifies candidate predictor metabolites of an L-carnitine treatment mortality benefit in septic shock

for the RACE Investigators

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6 Scopus citations


Sepsis-induced metabolic dysfunction contributes to organ failure and death. L-carnitine has shown promise for septic shock, but a recent phase II study of patients with vasopressor-dependent septic shock demonstrated a non-significant reduction in mortality. We undertook a pharmacometabolomics study of these patients (n = 250) to identify metabolic profiles predictive of a 90-day mortality benefit from L-carnitine. The independent predictive value of each pretreatment metabolite concentration, adjusted for L-carnitine dose, on 90-day mortality was determined by logistic regression. A grid-search analysis maximizing the Z-statistic from a binomial proportion test identified specific metabolite threshold levels that discriminated L-carnitine responsive patients. Threshold concentrations were further assessed by hazard ratio and Kaplan-Meier estimate. Accounting for L-carnitine treatment and dose, 11 1H-NMR metabolites and 12 acylcarnitines were independent predictors of 90-day mortality. Based on the grid-search analysis numerous acylcarnitines and valine were identified as candidate metabolites of drug response. Acetylcarnitine emerged as highly viable for the prediction of an L-carnitine mortality benefit due to its abundance and biological relevance. Using its most statistically significant threshold concentration, patients with pretreatment acetylcarnitine greater than or equal to 35 µM were less likely to die at 90 days if treated with L-carnitine (18 g) versus placebo (p = 0.01 by log rank test). Metabolomics also identified independent predictors of 90-day sepsis mortality. Our proof-of-concept approach shows how pharmacometabolomics could be useful for tackling the heterogeneity of sepsis and informing clinical trial design. In addition, metabolomics can help understand mechanisms of sepsis heterogeneity and variable drug response, because sepsis induces alterations in numerous metabolite concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2288-2299
Number of pages12
JournalClinical and translational science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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