Metabolic profiling reveals the heterogeneity of vascular endothelial function phenotypes in individuals at extreme cardiovascular risk†
Maladapted vascular endothelial metabolism in the context of endothelial function differing in phenotype remains unknown, which limits our understanding of the heterogeneous pathogenesis of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD). This study aimed to profile serum metabolic alterations of different vascular endothelial function phenotypes in asymptomatic adults at extreme cardiovascular risk. In addition to 12 CVD patients, 103 individuals free of CVD were categorized as having normal endothelial function (NEF) (n = 30), cardiovascular risk-promoting endothelial function (PEF) (n = 18), cardiovascular risk-resistant endothelial function (REF) (n = 25), and vulnerable endothelial function (VEF) (n = 30). Serum metabolic profiles were detected using gas chromatography time-of-flight/mass spectrometry and multivariate statistics. Compared to the NEF group, a total of 17, 17, 22, and 13 differential metabolites were identified in the PEF, REF, VEF, and CVD groups, respectively. Of the altered metabolic pathways, multiple pathways were consistent between the PEF and CVD groups, including pyrimidine metabolism, starch and sucrose metabolism, aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis, arginine and proline metabolism, and D-glutamine and D-glutamate metabolism. Notably, a relative increase in low-calorie sugar in galactose metabolism was exclusively found in the REF group, and a relative increase in the ratio of acetyl-CoA to CoA was suggested in the VEF group based on elevated butanoate metabolism and reduced pantothenate and CoA biosynthesis. Our findings clearly indicate distinct metabolic patterns across groups with heterogeneous vascular endothelial function in the context of extreme cardiovascular risk, and improve our understanding of the pathogenic heterogeneity of early CVD in asymptomatic populations.