Sphingolipid classes and the interrelationship with pediatric asthma and asthma risk factors

Yulu Chen, Antonio Checa, Pei Zhang, Mengna Huang, Rachel S Kelly, Min Kim, Yih-Chieh S Chen, Kathleen A Lee-Sarwar, Nicole Prince, Kevin M Mendez, Sofina Begum, Priyadarshini Kachroo, Su H Chu, Jakob Stokholm, Klaus Bønnelykke, Augusto A Litonjua, Hans Bisgaard, Scott T Weiss, Bo L Chawes, Craig E WheelockJessica A Lasky-Su


BACKGROUND: While dysregulated sphingolipid metabolism has been associated with risk of childhood asthma, the specific sphingolipid classes and/or mechanisms driving this relationship remain unclear. We aimed to understand the multifaceted role between sphingolipids and other established asthma risk factors that complicate this relationship.

METHODS: We performed targeted LC-MS/MS-based quantification of 77 sphingolipids in plasma from 997 children aged 6 years from two independent cohorts (VDAART and COPSAC2010 ). We examined associations of circulatory sphingolipids with childhood asthma, lung function, and three asthma risk factors: functional SNPs in ORMDL3, low vitamin D levels, and reduced gut microbial maturity. Given racial differences between these cohorts, association analyses were performed separately and then meta-analyzed together.

RESULTS: We observed elevations in circulatory sphingolipids with asthma phenotypes and risk factors; however, there were differential associations of sphingolipid classes with clinical outcomes and/or risk factors. While elevations from metabolites involved in ceramide recycling and catabolic pathways were associated with asthma and worse lung function [meta p-value range: 1.863E-04 to 2.24E-3], increased ceramide levels were associated with asthma risk factors [meta p-value range: 7.75E-5 to .013], but not asthma. Further investigation identified that some ceramides acted as mediators while some interacted with risk factors in the associations with asthma outcomes.

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates the differential role that sphingolipid subclasses may play in asthma and its risk factors. While overall elevations in sphingolipids appeared to be deleterious overall; elevations in ceramides were uniquely associated with increases in asthma risk factors only; while elevations in asthma phenotypes were associated with recycling sphingolipids. Modification of asthma risk factors may play an important role in regulating sphingolipid homeostasis via ceramides to affect asthma. Further function work may validate the observed associations.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)404-418
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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